Lens epithelial cell apoptosis is an early event in the development of UVB-induced cataract

Free Radic Biol Med. 1996;20(3):301-11. doi: 10.1016/0891-5849(96)02050-3.


Epidemiological and experimental studies have revealed that exposure to UV can induce cataractogenesis. To investigate the mechanism of this induction, viability of the lens epithelial cells from UVB-treated rat lenses were examined. Irradiation of the cultured rat lenses with 8 J/s/m2 UVB for 60 min triggers lens epithelial cell apoptosis as determined by terminal deoxyribonucleotide transferase (TdT) labeling and DNA fragmentation assays. The apoptotic lens epithelial cells were initially found in the equatorial region and then quickly appeared in both equatorial and central regions. The percentage of apoptotic cells continuously increased during the postirradiation incubation. After a 5-h post-UVB incubation, more than 50% of the lens epithelial cells were apoptotic. By 24 h, all of the lens epithelial cells in the irradiated lenses were dead through apoptosis. Associated with this apoptotic process is a large upregulation of the proto-oncogene, c-fos. Opacification appears to follow the death of lens epithelial cells occurring first in the equatorial region and then in the central area. This is also true of classical cataract parameters such as non-protein thiol and wet weight, which are significantly modified only after appreciable epithelial cell apoptosis. Together, these results suggest that the rapid apoptotic death of the lens epithelial cells induced by UVB initiates cataract development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cataract / etiology
  • Cataract / pathology*
  • DNA Probes
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Epithelium / radiation effects
  • Genes, fos
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline / pathology
  • Lens, Crystalline / radiation effects*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Organ Size
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Radiation Injuries / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Time Factors
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • DNA Probes
  • MAS1 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Mas
  • Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate Dehydrogenases