Cataract is the major reason for human blindness worldwide. α-Crystallin, as a key chaperone of eye lenses, keeps the lenticular tissues in its transparent state over time. In this study, cataract-causing familial mutations, P20R and A171T, were introduced in CRYАB gene. After successful expression in Escherichia coli and subsequent purification, the recombinant proteins were subjected to extensive structural and functional analyses using various spectroscopic techniques, gel electrophoresis, and electron microscopy. The results of fluorescence and Raman assessments suggest important but discreet conformational changes in human αB-Cry upon these cataractogenic mutations. Furthermore, the mutant proteins exhibited significant secondary structural alteration as revealed by FTIR and Raman spectroscopy. An increase in conformational stability was seen in the human αB-Cry bearing these congenital cataractogenic mutations. The oligomeric size distribution and chaperone-like activity of human αB-Cry were significantly altered by these mutations. The P20R mutant protein was observed to loose most of the chaperone-like activity. Finally, these cataractogenic mutant proteins exhibited an increased propensity to form the amyloid fibrils when incubated under environmental stress. Overall, the structural and functional changes in mutated human αB-Cry proteins can shed light on the pathogenic development of congenital cataracts.
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