A 13 kDa protein from bovine lens was identified and characterized by protein microsequencing and by rapid amplification of cDNA ends (RACE) PCR. Its complete sequence shows that this protein belongs to a family of fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs), including myelin and adipocyte P2, that are associated with cellular differentiation. The bovine lens protein, designated LP2, shows very close similarity to human epidermal FABP (eFABP) and human eFABP was detected in human lens, suggesting that the two proteins might be orthologous. Reverse transcriptase–PCR (RT–PCR) was used to compare expression patterns of LP2 with those for actin and for the differentiation markers γB-crystallin and γs-crystallin in lens. Actin was most abundant in the relatively undifferentiated epithelial cells and decreased with lens cell differentiation. In contrast γB-crystallin and γs-crystallin were detected only in fibres (nuclear and cortical respectively). LP2 transcripts were detected most abundantly in fibre cells and apparently increased with cellular differentiation. Molecular modelling confirms that the sequence of LP2 fits the tertiary template of adipocyte P2 but reveals the presence of two close pairs of cysteine residues that might be susceptible to intramolecular disulphide bond formation under appropriate oxidizing conditions. LP2 is thus another potential target for oxidative stress during cataract formation in lens.
The nucleotide sequence reported will appear in DDBJ, EMBL and GenBank Nucleotide Sequence Databases under the accession number U55188.