Electron tomography of fiber cell cytoplasm and dense cores of multilamellar bodies from human age-related nuclear cataracts.
Human nuclear cataract formation is a multi-factorial disease with contributions to light scattering from many cellular sources that change their scattering properties over decades. The aging process produces aggregation of cytoplasmic crystallin proteins, which alters the protein packing and texture of the cytoplasm. Previous studies of the cytoplasmic texture quantified increases in density fluctuations in protein packing and theoretically predicted the corresponding scattering. Multilamellar bodies (MLBs) are large particles with a core of crystallin cytoplasm that have been suggested to be major sources of scattering in human nuclei. The core has been shown to condense over time such that the refractive index increases compared to the adjacent aged and textured cytoplasm. Electron tomography is used here to visualize the 3D arrangement of protein aggregates in aged and cataractous lens nuclear cytoplasm compared to the dense protein packing in the cores of MLBs. Thin sections, 70 nm thick, were prepared from epoxy-embedded human transparent donor lenses and nuclear cataracts. Tilt series were collected on an FEI T20 transmission electron microscope (TEM) operated at 200 kV using 15 nm gold particles as fiducial markers. Images were aligned and corrected with FEI software and reconstructed with IMOD and other software packages to produce animated tilt series and stereo anaglyphs. The 3D views of protein density showed the relatively uniform packing of proteins in aged transparent lens nuclear cytoplasm and less dense packing of aged cataractous cytoplasm where many low-density regions can be appreciated in the absence of the TEM projection artifacts. In contrast the cores of the MLBs showed a dense packing of protein with minimal density fluctuations. These observations support the conclusion that, during the nuclear cataract formation, alterations in protein packing are extensive and can result in pronounced density fluctuations. Aging causes the MLB cores to become increasingly different in their protein packing from the adjacent cytoplasm. These results support the hypothesis that the MLBs increase their scattering with age and nuclear cataract formation.
Costello, MJ; Burette, A; Weber, M; Metlapally, S; Gilliland, KO; Fowler, WC; Mohamed, A; Johnsen, S
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
Pubmed Central ID
Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)