Expression of the type vi intermediate filament proteins CP49 and filensin in the mouse lens epithelium

Paul G FitzGerald, Ning Sun, Brad Shibata, John F. Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: The differentiated lens fiber cell assembles a filamentous cytoskeletal structure referred to as the beaded filament (BF). The BF requires CP49 (bfsp2) and filensin (bfsp1) for assembly, both of which are highly divergent members of the large intermediate filament (IF) family of proteins. Thus far, these two proteins have been reported only in the differentiated lens fiber cell. For this reason, both proteins have been considered robust markers of fiber cell differentiation. We report here that both proteins are also expressed in the mouse lens epithelium, but only after 5 weeks of age. Methods: Localization of CP49 was achieved with immunocytochemical probing of wild-type, CP49 knockout, filensin knockout, and vimentin knockout mice, in sections and in the explanted lens epithelium, at the light microscope and electron microscope levels. The relationship between CP49 and other cytoskeletal elements was probed using fluorescent phalloidin, as well as with antibodies to vimentin, GFAP, and α-tubulin. The relationship between CP49 and the aggresome was probed with antibodies to γ-tubulin, ubiquitin, and HDAC6. Results: CP49 and filensin were expressed in the mouse lens epithelium, but only after 5 weeks of age. At the light microscope level, these two proteins colocalize to a large tubular structure, approximately 7 × 1 μm, which was typically present at one to two copies per cell. This structure is found in the anterior and anterolateral lens epithelium, including the zone where mitosis occurs. The structure becomes smaller and largely undetectable closer to the equator where the cell exits the cell cycle and commits to fiber cell differentiation. This structure bears some resemblance to the aggresome and is reactive with antibodies to HDAC6, a marker for the aggresome. However, the structure does not colocalize with antibodies to γ-tubulin or ubiquitin, also markers for the aggresome. The structure also colocalizes with actin but appears to largely exclude vimentin and α-tubulin. In the CP49 and filensin knockouts, this structure is absent, confirming the identity of CP49 and filensin in this structure, and suggesting a requirement for the physiologic coassembly of CP49 and filensin. Conclusions: CP49 and filensin have been considered robust markers for mouse lens fiber cell differentiation. The data reported here, however, document both proteins in the mouse lens epithelium, but only after 5 weeks of age, when lens epithelial growth and mitotic activity have slowed. Because of this, CP49 and filensin must be considered markers of differentiation for both fiber cells and the lens epithelium in the mouse. In addition, to our knowledge, no other protein has been shown to emerge so late in the development of the mouse lens epithelium, suggesting that lens epithelial differentiation may continue well into post-natal life. If this structure is related to the aggresome, it is a rare, or perhaps unique example of a large, stable aggresome in wild-type tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)970-989
Number of pages20
JournalMolecular Vision
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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