Cataract induction in lenses cultured with transforming growth factor-beta

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995 Jul;36(8):1709-13.


Purpose: Anterior subcapsular cataracts are characterized by the appearance of opaque plaques of abnormal cells. Distinctive spindle-shaped cells containing alpha-smooth muscle actin are present and are associated with wrinkling of the overlying lens capsule. Accumulations of extracellular matrix, including type I collagen, also are found. The authors previously reported that transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) induces similar aberrant morphologic changes in lens epithelial explants. More recently, they identified alpha-smooth muscle actin in explants cultured with TGF-beta. The aim of this study was to determine whether TGF-beta induces comparable cataractous changes in whole lenses and to examine the effects of this treatment on the transparency of the lens.

Methods: Whole lenses from 21-day-old rats were cultured in defined serum-free medium with TGF-beta 2 or without added growth factors for 5 days. Lenses were then photographed and prepared for histology and immunolocalization.

Results: Lenses cultured with TGF-beta developed distinct anterior opacities just beneath the lens capsule. Histologically, clumps of abnormal cells corresponded with these opacities. Spindle-shaped cells, which contained alpha-smooth muscle actin, were present, and the overlying capsule was often wrinkled. The clumps contained accumulations of type I collagen, laminin, and heparan sulphate proteoglycan. In contrast, lenses cultured without growth factors remained transparent, retained normal lens morphology, and did not accumulate alpha-smooth muscle actin or type I collagen.

Conclusions: These results show that TGF-beta induces whole lenses to form opacities that contain morphologic and biochemical markers for subcapsular cataract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cataract / chemically induced*
  • Cataract / metabolism
  • Cataract / pathology
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Lens Capsule, Crystalline / pathology
  • Lens, Crystalline / drug effects*
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism
  • Lens, Crystalline / pathology
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Rats
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / pharmacology*


  • Actins
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Collagen