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Quantitative X-ray tomographic analysis reveals calcium precipitation in cataractogenesis


Cataracts, named for pathological light scattering in the lens, are known to be associated with increased large protein aggregates, disrupted protein phase separation, and/or osmotic imbalances in lens cells. We have applied synchrotron phase contrast X-ray micro-computed tomography to directly examine an age-related nuclear cataract model in Cx46 knockout (Cx46KO) mice. High-resolution 3D X-ray tomographic images reveal amorphous spots and strip-like dense matter precipitates in lens cores of all examined Cx46KO mice at different ages. The precipitates are predominantly accumulated in the anterior suture regions of lens cores, and they become longer and dense as mice age. Alizarin red staining data confirms the presence of calcium precipitates in lens cores of all Cx46KO mice. This study indicates that the spatial and temporal calcium precipitation is an age-related event associated with age-related nuclear cataract formation in Cx46KO mice, and further suggests that the loss of Cx46 promotes calcium precipitates in the lens core, which is a new mechanism that likely contributes to the pathological light scattering in this age-related cataract model.

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