Age-related cataracts: Role of unfolded protein response, Ca2+ mobilization, epigenetic DNA modifications, and loss of Nrf2/Keap1 dependent cytoprotection

Palsamy Periyasamy, Toshimichi Shinohara

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Age-related cataracts are closely associated with lens chronological aging, oxidation, calcium imbalance, hydration and crystallin modifications. Accumulating evidence indicates that misfolded proteins are generated in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by most cataractogenic stresses. To eliminate misfolded proteins from cells before they can induce senescence, the cells activate a clean-up machinery called the ER stress/unfolded protein response (UPR). The UPR also activates the nuclear factor-erythroid-2-related factor 2 (Nrf2), a central transcriptional factor for cytoprotection against stress. Nrf2 activates nearly 600 cytoprotective target genes. However, if ER stress reaches critically high levels, the UPR activates destructive outputs to trigger programmed cell death. The UPR activates mobilization of ER-Ca2+ to the cytoplasm and results in activation of Ca2+-dependent proteases to cleave various enzymes and proteins which cause the loss of normal lens function. The UPR also enhances the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which damage lens constituents and induce failure of the Nrf2 dependent cytoprotection. Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) is an oxygen sensor protein and regulates the levels of Nrf2 by the proteasomal degradation. A significant loss of DNA methylation in diabetic cataracts was found in the Keap1 promoter, which overexpresses the Keap1 protein. Overexpressed Keap1 significantly decreases the levels of Nrf2. Lower levels of Nrf2 induces loss of the redox balance toward to oxidative stress thereby leading to failure of lens cytoprotection. Here, this review summarizes the overall view of ER stress, increases in Ca2+ levels, protein cleavage, and loss of the well-established stress protection in somatic lens cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Age-related cataracts
  • DNA methylation
  • ER stress
  • Keap1
  • Nrf2
  • Unfolded protein response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


Dive into the research topics of 'Age-related cataracts: Role of unfolded protein response, Ca<sup>2+</sup> mobilization, epigenetic DNA modifications, and loss of Nrf2/Keap1 dependent cytoprotection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this