To probe for possible relationships between retinal crystallins and retinal degenerations, protein expression was compared in normal Sprague-Dawley rats, treated or not with intense light, Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats and transgenic rats expressing rhodopsin mutations. Rats were reared in dim cyclic light for 21–75 days. Photoreceptor cell DNA levels were determined at various ages to assess the rates of visual cell loss. 1D- and 2D-gel electrophoresis was used to profile retinal protein expression. Crystallins were identified by western analysis and by tandem mass spectrometry. In normal rat retinas, α, β and γ crystallins were present, although αA- and γ-crystallins exhibited some increase with age. As measured by DNA levels, the rate of genetically induced photoreceptor cell loss was greater in rats with faster degenerating retinas (RCS, S334-ter Line 4, P23H Line 3) than in rats with slower degenerating retinas (S334-ter Line 9, P23H Line 2). In genetic models of retinal degeneration increased levels of immunoreactivity for all crystallins, especially αA-insert, correlated with the different rates of photoreceptor loss. In the light induced degeneration model αA-insert was unchanged, truncated αB- crystallin levels were increased and γ-crystallins were greatly reduced. In the RCS rat retina 16 different crystallins were identified. Our data suggests that an increase in crystallin expression occurs during various retinal degenerations and that the increases may be related to the severity, type and onset of retinal degeneration.
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Vol. 82 • No. 4