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J R Kuszak, A R Khan, R J Cenedella; An ultrastructural analysis of plasma membrane in the U18666A cataract.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1988;29(2):261-267.
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Because the cholesterol concentration of lens fiber cell membrane in general and lens intercellular junctions in particular is comparatively high, it is likely that it plays a major role in maintaining these structures. In addition, the high concentration of cholesterol in fiber cell membrane is also likely to influence membrane fluidity. Subcutaneous injections of U18666A (3 beta-(2-diethylaminoethoxy) androst-5-en-17-one HCl) into rats effects: (1) a blockade of sterolgenesis in the lens; (2) a depletion of lens fiber cell membrane cholesterol; and (3) the development of irreversible nuclear cataracts. In the present study we have analyzed the ultrastructure of lens fiber cell membrane in adult rats, these by the freeze-etch technique. Whereas it has been previously demonstrated that intercellular junctions comprise approximately one-third of the intermediate cortical fiber cell membrane in adult rats, these junctions were completely absent between comparable fiber cells taken from opaque regions of the U18666A cataractous lenses. There was also a concomitant increase in the extracellular space between the opaque fiber cells and a substantial redistribution of intramembrane proteins in the exoplasmic and protoplasmic faces of these cells. These findings support a "hypothesis" that inhibition of endogenous lens cholesterol production leads to damage and/or degeneration of lens fiber cell membrane in general and in intercellular junctions in particular, resulting in the production of an irreversible nuclear cataract.
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