In anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

, a crystallin is a water-soluble structural protein
Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

 found in the lens
Lens (anatomy)
The crystalline lens is a transparent, biconvex structure in the eye that, along with the cornea, helps to refract light to be focused on the retina. The lens, by changing shape, functions to change the focal distance of the eye so that it can focus on objects at various distances, thus allowing a...

 and the cornea
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, with the cornea accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total optical power. In humans, the refractive power of the cornea is...

 of the eye
Eyes are organs that detect light and convert it into electro-chemical impulses in neurons. The simplest photoreceptors in conscious vision connect light to movement...

  accounting for the transparency of the structure. It has also been identified in other places such as the heart, and in aggressive breast cancer tumors.
Since it has been shown that lens injury may promote nerve regeneration,
crystallin has been an area of neural research. So far, it has been demonstrated that crystallin β b2 (crybb2) may be a neurite
A neurite refers to any projection from the cell body of a neuron. This projection can be either an axon or a dendrite. The term is frequently used when speaking of immature or developing neurons, especially of cells in culture, because it can be difficult to tell axons from dendrites before...

 promoting factor.


The main function of crystallins at least in the lens
Lens (anatomy)
The crystalline lens is a transparent, biconvex structure in the eye that, along with the cornea, helps to refract light to be focused on the retina. The lens, by changing shape, functions to change the focal distance of the eye so that it can focus on objects at various distances, thus allowing a...

 of the eye is probably to increase the refractive index while not obstructing light. However, this is not their only function. It is becoming increasingly clear that crystallins may have several metabolic and regulatory functions, both within the lens and in other parts of the body. More proteins containing βγ-crystallin domains have now been characterized as calcium binding proteins with Greek key motif as a novel calcium-binding motif.

Enzyme activity

Interestingly and perhaps excitingly from an evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

ary perspective, some crystallins are active enzymes, while others lack activity but show homology
Homology (biology)
Homology forms the basis of organization for comparative biology. In 1843, Richard Owen defined homology as "the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function". Organs as different as a bat's wing, a seal's flipper, a cat's paw and a human hand have a common underlying...

 to other enzymes. The crystallins of different groups of organisms are related to a large number of different proteins, with those from birds and reptiles related to lactate dehydrogenase
Lactate dehydrogenase
Lactate dehydrogenase is an enzyme present in a wide variety of organisms, including plants and animals.Lactate dehydrogenases exist in four distinct enzyme classes. Two of them are cytochrome c-dependent enzymes, each acting on either D-lactate or L-lactate...

 and argininosuccinate lyase, those of mammals to alcohol dehydrogenase
Alcohol dehydrogenase
Alcohol dehydrogenases are a group of dehydrogenase enzymes that occur in many organisms and facilitate the interconversion between alcohols and aldehydes or ketones with the reduction of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide...

 and quinone reductase
NADPH:quinone reductase
In enzymology, a NADPH:quinone reductase is an enzyme that catalyzes the chemical reactionThe 3 substrates of this enzyme are NADPH, H+, and quinone, whereas its two products are NADP+ and semiquinone....

, and those of cephalopod
A cephalopod is any member of the molluscan class Cephalopoda . These exclusively marine animals are characterized by bilateral body symmetry, a prominent head, and a set of arms or tentacles modified from the primitive molluscan foot...

s to glutathione S-transferase
Glutathione S-transferase
Enzymes of the glutathione S-transferase family are composed of many cytosolic, mitochondrial, and microsomal proteins. GSTs are present in eukaryotes and in prokaryotes, where they catalyze a variety of reactions and accept endogenous and xenobiotic substrates.GSTs can constitute up to 10% of...

 and aldehyde dehydrogenase
Aldehyde dehydrogenase
Aldehyde dehydrogenases are a group of enzymes that catalyse the oxidation of aldehydes.- Function :Aldehyde dehydrogenase is a polymorphic enzyme responsible for the oxidation of aldehydes to carboxylic acids, which leave the liver and are metabolized by the body’s muscle and heart...

. Whether these crystallins are products of a fortuitous accident of evolution, in that these particular enzymes happened to be transparent and highly-soluble, or whether these diverse enzymatic activities are part of the protective machinery of the lens, is an active research topic. The recruitment of protein that originally evolved with one function to serve a second, unrelated function is an example of an exaptation
Exaptation, cooption, and preadaptation are related terms referring to shifts in the function of a trait during evolution. For example, a trait can evolve because it served one particular function, but subsequently it may come to serve another. Exaptations are common in both anatomy and behaviour...



Crystallins from a vertebrate eye lens are classified into three main types: alpha
Alpha crystallin
Alpha crystallin is a water-soluble structural protein found in the lens of the eye. Compared to the other crystallins, it elutes earlier from a gel filtration chromatography column....

, beta and gamma crystallins. These distinctions are based on the order in which they elute from a gel filtration chromatography column. These are also called ubiquitous crystallins. Beta- and gamma-crystallins (such as CRYGC
Crystallin, gamma C, also known as CRYGC, is a protein which in humans is encoded by the CRYGC gene.- Function :Crystallins are separated into two classes: taxon-specific, or enzyme, and ubiquitous. The latter class constitutes the major proteins of vertebrate eye lens and maintains the...

) are similar in sequence, structure and domains topology, and thus have been grouped together as a protein superfamily called βγ-Crystallins. The α-crystallin family and βγ-crystallins compose the major family of proteins present in the crystalline lens.

In addition to these crystallins there are other taxon
|thumb|270px|[[African elephants]] form a widely-accepted taxon, the [[genus]] LoxodontaA taxon is a group of organisms, which a taxonomist adjudges to be a unit. Usually a taxon is given a name and a rank, although neither is a requirement...

-specific crystallins which are only found in the lens of some organisms; these include delta, epsilon, tau, and iota-crystallins. For example, alpha, beta, and delta crystallins are found in avian and reptilian lenses, and the alpha, beta, and gamma families are found in the lenses of all other vertebrates.

External links

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