Integrin {alpha}V{beta}5-mediated removal of apoptotic cell debris by the eye lens and its inhibition by UV-light exposure [Cell Biology]

November 2nd, 2015 by Chauss, D., Brennan, L. A., Bakina, O., Kantorow, M.

Accumulation of apoptotic material is toxic and associated with cataract and other disease states. Identification of mechanisms that prevent accumulation of apoptotic debris is important towards establishing the etiology of these diseases. The ocular lens is routinely assaulted by UV-light that causes lens cell apoptosis and is associated with cataract formation. To date, no molecular mechanism for removal of toxic apoptotic debris has been identified in the lens. Vesicular debris within lens cells exposed to UV-light has been observed raising speculation that lens cells themselves could act as phagocytes to remove toxic apoptotic debris. However, phagocytosis has not been confirmed as a function of the intact eye lens and no mechanism for lens phagocytosis has been established. Here, we demonstrate that the eye lens is capable of phagocytizing extracellular lens cell debris. Using high-throughput RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analysis we establish that lens epithelial cells express members of the integrin αVβ5-mediated phagocytosis pathway and that internalized cell debris co-localizes with αVβ5 and with RAB7 and RILP that are required for phagosome maturation and fusion with lysosomes. We demonstrate that the αVβ5 receptor is required for lens epithelial cell phagocytosis and that UV-light treatment of lens epithelial cells results in damage to the αVβ5 receptor with concomitant loss of phagocytosis. These data suggest that loss of αVβ5-mediated phagocytosis by the eye lens could result in accumulation of toxic cell debris that could contribute to UV light-induced cataract formation.