Nuclear light scattering, disulfide formation and membrane damage in lenses of older guinea pigs treated with hyperbaric oxygen

Exp Eye Res. 1995 Mar;60(3):219-35. doi: 10.1016/s0014-4835(05)80105-8.


Nuclear cataract, a major cause of loss of lens transparency in the aging human, has long been thought to be associated with oxidative damage, particularly at the site of the nuclear plasma membrane. However, few animal models have been available to study the mechanism of the opacity. Hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) has been shown to produce increased nuclear light scattering (NLS) and nuclear cataract in lenses of mice and human patients. In the present study, older guinea pigs (Initially 17-18 months of age) were treated with 2.5 atmospheres of 100% O2 for 2-2.5-hr periods, three times per week, for up to 100 times. Examination by slit-lamp biomicroscopy showed that exposure to HBO led to increased NLS in the lenses of the animals after as few as 19 treatments, compared to lenses of age-matched untreated and hyperbaric air-treated controls. The degree of NLS and enlargement of the lens nucleus continued to increase until 65 O2-treatments, and then remained constant until the end of the study. Exposure to O2 for 2.5 instead of 2 hr accelerated the increase in NLS; however, distinct nuclear cataract was not observed in the animals during the period of investigation. A number of morphological changes in the experimental lens nuclei, as analysed by transmission electron microscopy, were similar to those recently reported for human immature nuclear cataracts (Costello, Oliver and Cobo, 1992). O2-induced damage to membranes probably acted as scattering centers and caused the observed increased NLS. A general state of oxidative stress existed in the lens nucleus of the O2-treated animals, prior to the first appearance of increased NLS, as evidenced by increased levels of protein-thiol mixed disulfides and protein disulfide. The levels of mixed disulfides in the experimental nucleus were remarkably high, nearly equal to the normal level of nuclear GSH. The level of GSH in the normal guinea pig lens decreased with age in the nucleus but not in the cortex; at 30 months of age the nuclear level of GSH was only 4% of the cortical value. HBO-induced changes in the lens nucleus included loss of soluble protein, increase in urea-insoluble protein and slight decreases in levels of GSH and ascorbate; however, there was no accumulation of oxidized glutathione. Intermolecular protein disulfide in the experimental nucleus consisted mainly of gamma-crystallin, but crosslinked alpha-, beta- and zeta-crystallins were also present.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cataract / etiology*
  • Crystallins / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disulfides / metabolism*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hyperbaric Oxygenation*
  • Lens Nucleus, Crystalline / drug effects
  • Lens Nucleus, Crystalline / metabolism*
  • Lens Nucleus, Crystalline / ultrastructure
  • Light
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Scattering, Radiation*


  • Crystallins
  • Disulfides