Molecular Vision 2011; 17:804-809 <>
Received 10 March 2011 | Accepted 17 March 2011 | Published 26 March 2011

A novel mutation in γD-crystallin associated with autosomal dominant congenital cataract in a Chinese family

Li Wang, Xueli Chen, Yi Lu, Jihong Wu, Boqi Yang, Xinghuai Sun

Department of Ophthalmology, Eye and ENT hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, China

Correspondence to: Dr. Xinghuai Sun, Department of Ophthalmology, Eye and ENT Hospital of Fudan University, Shanghai, China; Phone: (086)-(021)6437-7134; FAX: (086)-(021) 6437-7151, email:


Purpose: To identify the pathogenic gene mutation in a Chinese family with autosomal dominant congenital nuclear cataract.

Methods: After obtaining informed consent, detailed ophthalmic examinations were performed and genomic DNAs were obtained from eleven family members in a three-generation Chinese family with five affected. All exons of candidate genes associated with congenital nuclear cataract were amplified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and the PCR products were sequenced in both directions. The hydrophobic property of the mutant protein was analyzed with bioinformatics program ProtScale. The structure homology modeling of the mutant protein was based on Swiss-Model Serve, and its structure was displayed and compared with native γD-crystallin (CRYGD) using the RasMol software.

Results: By sequencing the encoding regions of the candidate genes, a novel mutation (c.110G>C) was detected in exon 2 of CRYGD, which resulted in the substitution of a highly conserved arginine by proline at codon 36 (p.R36P). The mutation co-segregated with all patients and was absent in 100 normal Chinese controls. Bioinformatics analysis showed an obvious increase of the local hydrophilicity of the R36P mutant γD-crystallin. The homology modeling showed that the structure of the mutant protein was similar with that of native human γD-crystallin.

Conclusions: The study identified a novel mutation (c. 110G>C) in CRYGD associated with autosomal dominant congenital cataract in a Chinese family. It expands the mutation spectrum of CRYGD in association with congenital cataract.


Congenital cataracts are one of the common eye disorders leading to visual impairment or blindness in children worldwide. Congenital cataract may be inherited or familial, either as an isolated form or as a part of a syndrome, such as Nance-Horan syndrome. In isolated inherited congenital cataract, autosomal dominant (AD), autosomal recessive (AR), and X-linked inheritance have been reported [1,2]. Along with the development of molecular genetics, more than 20 genes have been identified to be involved in isolated cataract formation. Many of them encode crystallins [3-13], such as αA-crystallin (CRYAA), αB-crystallin (CRYAB), βA1/A3-crystallin (CRYBA1/A3), βA4-crystallin (CRYBA4), βB1-crystallin (CRYBB1), βB2-crystallin(CRYBB2), βB3--crystallin(CRYBB3), γC-crystallin(CRYGC), γD-crystallin (CRYGD), and γS-crystallin (CRYGS).

Among these crystallin genes, the number of reported mutations in CRYGD and correlative phenotypes in human are extensive, such as R14C mutation associated with progressive juvenile-onset punctate cataracts, nuclear cataract and coralliform cataract [12,14], R58H mutation associated with aculeiform cataract and coral-like cataract [11,15], R36S associated with nuclear cataract and crystal cataract [16,17], P23T associated with lamellar cataract, cerulean cataract, coral-like cataract, a flaky, silica-like nuclear cataract, fasciculiform cataract and coralliform cataract [18-23], W156X associated with central nuclear cataract [20], P23S associated with polymorphic congenital cataract [24], G61C causing autosomal dominant congenital coralliform cataracts [25], Y56X associated with nuclear cataract [26], R77S associated with a juvenile autosomal dominant anterior polar coronary cataract [27], E107A associated with nuclear congenital cataract [28], R15S co-segregated with coralliform cataract [29], G165fs associated with nuclear cataract [30], Y134X associated with microcornea-cataract [31], R140X related with inherited pediatric cataract [32]. In mice, mutations in Crygd have been identified and shown to lead to dominant, congenital cataracts [33]: CrygdLop12, CrygdAey4, CrygdENU4011, CrygdENU910, and CrygdK10.

In this study, we reported a novel mutation in CRYGD (p.R36P) which is related with congenital cataract in a Chinese family.


Clinical evaluation and DNA specimens

A three-generation family with autosomal dominant congenital nuclear cataract was ascertained (Figure 1). After explanation of the nature and possible consequences of the study, eleven individuals participated in the study. The study was performed with informed consent and following all the guidelines for experimental investigations required by the Institutional Review Board of Eye and EENT Hospital of Fudan University. The ophthalmologic examinations, including visual function and dilated slit-lamp examination, were performed by ophthalmologists. Blood samples were collected and leukocyte genomic DNA was extracted.

Mutation detection

All the exons of candidate genes which were associated with autosomal dominant congenital nuclear cataract, including CRYAA, CRYBA1/A3, CRYBB2, CRYBB3, CRYGC, CRYGD, CRYGS, GJA3, and GJA8, were amplified by PCR. The primers used are listed in Table 1. The PCR products were sequenced in both directions with an ABI 3130XL Genetic Analyzer (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA). The results were analyzed using Chromas (version 2.23) software and compared with the reference sequences in the NCBI gene bank.

Bioinformatics analysis

The wild-type and mutant CRYGD protein sequences were analyzed with PolyPhen to predict whether the amino acid substitution affects the structure and function of proteins, with a position-specific independent counts (PSIC) score difference for two amino acid variants. The hydrophobic properties of mutant and wild-type CRYGD were analyzed with ProtScale. The structure homology modeling of the mutant protein was modeled by Swiss-Model Serve [34], and its structure was displayed and compared with native human CRYGD using RasMol software. The structure of native human CRYGD (1hk0) was obtained from the PDB database.


Clinical evaluations

There were five patients in this three-generation family (Figure 1). Cataract was characterized as bilateral, white, central nuclear opacities (Figure 2) in the affected members. There were no other ocular or systemic abnormalities. The affected individuals I1, II1, and III1 have had cataract surgery. An autosomal dominant inheritance mode of the cataract was supported by the presence of affected individuals in each of the three generations, and male-to-male transmission.

Mutation detection

By bidirectional sequencing of amplified exons of the candidate genes, we found a heterozygous missense mutation, G>C at position 110 in exon 2 of CRYGD (NM_006891) in affected individuals, but not in unaffected individuals. This change led to the substitution of arginine by proline at position 36 (p.R36P; Figure 3). This mutation was not found in 100 unrelated control individuals. No other sequence variant was found.

Bioinformatics analysis

PolyPhen analysis showed that the substitution in CRYGD (p.R36P) had a PSIC score difference of 2.796, which meant that “this variant is predicted to be probably damaging.” It is with high confidence supposed to affect protein function or structure. The change in hydrophobicity of the mutant and wide protein is shown in Figure 4. An obvious increase can be seen in the local hydrophilicity of R36P mutant CRYGD. The homology modeling showed that the second structure of the mutant protein was similar with that of native human CRYGD (Figure 5).


In a Chinese family with congenital nuclear cataract, we identified a novel mutation c.110G>C in CRYGD, leading to the substitution of arginine by proline (p. R36P). This mutation co-segregated with the phenotype and was not found in 100 unrelated control individuals.

CRYGD is one of only two gamma-crystallin genes to be expressed at high concentrations in the human lens. CRYGD which encodes a 174-amino acid protein is located on chromosome 2q33.3. CRYGD is an important structural protein, its high concentration and conserved conformational symmetry are associated with high refractive index of the lens, which keeps the lens transparent.

Most of the mutations of CRYGD which were reported in different ancestral families with congenital cataract actually involve an arginine residue in conserved positions, such as R14C, R15S, R58H, R36S, R77S, and R140X. The R36S mutation of the processed, initiation-methioine-lacking protein was first described in a Czech 5-year-old boy with crystal cataract caused by deposition of crystallized protein [16]. The same mutation was detected in a Chinese family with nuclear golden crystal cataract [17]. The X-ray structure of CRYGD revealed that the protein fold of the p.R36S mutant protein was almost identical to that of bovine CRYGD, but this mutation changed the solvent-accessible surface characteristic, decreased the charge and increased the local hydrophobicity. Protein crystallography study displayed the normal crystals cannot form with wild-type protein because of steric hindrances imposed by the bulky Arg36 side chains [16]. Pande et al. [35] showed the p.R36S mutation dramatically lowered the solubility of the protein, the mutant protein were more prone to crystallization than wild-type human CRYGD protein. The P23T, P23S, and R58H mutant protein was also found to be less soluble than wild type human CRYGD [35,36].

In our study, we detected a novel mutation in the same codon (p.R36P) to be the basis of congenital nuclear cataract without crystal manifestation in a Chinese family. The different mutation of the same condon was also reported in the CRYGD gene, such as P23T and P23S, which were related with different cataract [18-24]. For the different clinical manifestations, it is presumed that modifying factors or epistatic elements, such as the difference in the gene promoter site, might regulate CRYGD expression in the lens.

The residue 36 arginine is highly conserved, a highly polar and hydrophilic residue.In the p.R36P CRYGD mutant, it was replaced by less polar, hydrophobic residues proline. The prediction by ProtScale analysis at Expasy showed an obvious increase of local hydrophobicity around the site of R36P mutation. The homology modeling showed that the second structure of the mutant protein was similar with that of native human CRYGD. It can be presumed that R36P mutation would result in incorrect solvent-accessible surface characteristics and lower the solubility of the protein in the affected individuals, like R36S and other dominantly inherited mutations reported in CRYGD. The activity of R36P mutation identified in our study to the CRYGD needs to be further certificated.

In conclusion, we identified a novel mutation (R36P) in CRYGD associated with autosomal dominant nuclear cataract in a Chinese family. This finding expands the mutation spectrum of CRYGD in association with congenital cataract.


We are grateful to the family for their participation and all the people which helped us in this study. This project is supported by the financial support of the Scientific Research Foundation for Young Core from Shanghai medical college of Fudan University (EENT-2009–07) and by a grant from the National Program of Basic Research (2007CB512204) sponsored by the ministry of Science and Technology of China.


  1. Reddy MA, Francis PJ, Berry V, Bhattacharya SS, Moore AT. Molecular genetic basis of inherited cataract and associated phenotypes. Surv Ophthalmol. 2004; 49:300-15. [PMID: 15110667]
  2. Francis PJ, Berry V, Bhattacharya SS, Moore AT. The genetics of childhood cataract. J Med Genet. 2000; 37:481-8. [PMID: 10882749]
  3. Litt M, Kramer P, LaMorticella DM, Murphey W, Lovrien EW, Weleber RG. Autosomal dominant congenital cataract associated with a missense mutation in the human alpha crystalline gene CRYAA. Hum Mol Genet. 1998; 7:471-4. [PMID: 9467006]
  4. Berry V, Francis P, Reddy MA, Collyer D, Vithana E, MacKay I, Dawson G, Carey AH, Moore A, Bhattacharya SS, Quinlan RA. Alpha-B crystallin gene (CRYAB) mutation causes dominant congenital posterior polar cataract in humans. Am J Hum Genet. 2001; 69:1141-5. [PMID: 11577372]
  5. Qi Y, Jia H, Huang S, Lin H, Gu J, Su H, Zhang T, Gao Y, Qu L, Li D, Li Y. A deletion mutation in the betaA1/A3 crystallin gene (CRYBA1/A3) is associated with autosomal dominant congenital nuclear cataract in a Chinese family. Hum Genet. 2004; 114:192-7. [PMID: 14598164]
  6. Billingsley G, Santhiya ST, Paterson AD, Ogata K, Wodak S, Hosseini SM, Manisastry SM, Vijayallakshmi P, Gopinath PM, Graw J, Heon E. CRYBA4 a novel human cataract gene is also involved in microphthalmia. Am J Hum Genet. 2006; 79:702-9. [PMID: 16960806]
  7. Mackay DS, Boskovska OB, Knopf HLS, Lampi KJ, Shiels A. A nonsense mutation in CRYBB1 associated with autosomal dominant cataract linked to human chromosome 22q. Am J Hum Genet. 2002; 71:1216-21. [PMID: 12360425]
  8. Yao K, Tang X, Shentu X, Wang K, Rao H, Xia K. Progressive polymorphic congenital cataract caused by a CRYBB2 mutation in a Chinese family. Mol Vis. 2005; 11:758-63. [PMID: 16179907]
  9. Wang L, Lin H, Gu J, Su H, Huang S, Qi Y. Autosomal-Dominant Cerulean Cataract in a Chinese Family Associated with Gene Conversion Mutation in Beta-B2-Crystallin. Ophthalmic Res. 2009; 41:148-53. [PMID: 19321936]
  10. Riazuddin SA, Yasmeen A, Yao W, Sergeev YV, Zhang Q, Zulfiqar F, Riaz A, Riazuddin S, Hejtmancik JF. Mutations in beta-B3-crystallin associated with autosomal recessive cataract in two Pakistani families. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2005; 46:2100-6. [PMID: 15914629]
  11. Héon E, Priston M, Schorderet DF, Billingsley GD, Girard PO, Lubsen N, Munier FL. The gamma-crystallins and human cataracts: a puzzle made clearer. Am J Hum Genet. 1999; 65:1261-7. [PMID: 10521291]
  12. Stephan DA, Gillanders E, Vanderveen D, Freas-Lutz D, Wistow G, Baxevanis AD, Robbins CM, VanAuken A, Quesenberry MI, Bailey-Wilson J, Juo S-HH, Trent JM, Smith L, Brownstein MJ. Progressive juvenile-onset punctuate cataracts caused by mutation of the gamma-D-crystallin gene. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 1999; 96:1008-12. [PMID: 9927684]
  13. Sun H, Ma Z, Li Y, Liu B, Li Z, Ding X, Gao Y, Ma W, Tang X, Li X, Shen Y. Gamma-S crystallin gene (CRYGS) mutation causes dominant progressive cortical cataract in humans. J Med Genet. 2005; 42:706-10. [PMID: 16141006]
  14. Gu F, Li R, Ma XX, Shi LS, Huang SZ, Ma X. A missense mutation in the gammaD-crystallin gene CRYGD associated with autosomal dominant congenital cataract in a Chinese family. Mol Vis. 2006; 12:26-31. [PMID: 16446699]
  15. Zenteno JC, Morales ME, Moran-Barroso V, Sanchez-Navarro A. CRYGD gene analysis in a family with autosomal dominant congenital cataract: evidence for molecular homogeneity and intrafamilial clinical heterogeneity in aculeiform cataract. Mol Vis. 2005; 11:438-42. [PMID: 16030500]
  16. Kmoch S, Brynda J, Asfaw B, Bezouska K, Novák P, Rezácová P, Ondrová L, Filipec M, Sedlácek J, Elleder M. Link between a novel human gammaD-crystallin allele and a unique cataract phenotype explained by protein crystallography. Hum Mol Genet. 2000; 9:1779-86. [PMID: 10915766]
  17. Gu J, Qi Y, Wang L, Wang J, Shi L, Lin H, Li X, Su H, Huang S. A new congenital nuclear cataract caused by a missense mutation in the γD-crystallin gene (CRYGD) in a Chinese family. Mol Vis. 2005; 11:971-6. [PMID: 16288201]
  18. Nandrot E, Slingsby C, Basak A, Cherif-Chefchaouni M, Benazzouz B, Hajaji Y, Boutayeb S, Gribouval O, Arbogast L, Berraho A, Abitbol M, Hilal L. Gamma-D crystallin gene (CRYGD) mutation causes autosomal dominant congenital cerulean cataracts. J Med Genet. 2003; 40:262-7. [PMID: 12676897]
  19. Mackay DS, Andley UP, Shiels A. A missense mutation in the gammaD crystallin gene (CRYGD) associated with autosomal dominant “coral-like” cataract linked to chromosome 2q. Mol Vis. 2004; 10:155-62. [PMID: 15041957]
  20. Santhiya ST, Shyam Manohar M, Rawlley D, Vijayalakshmi P, Namperumalsamy P, Gopinath PM, Löster J, Graw J. Novel mutations in the gamma-crystallin genes cause autosomal dominant congenital cataracts. J Med Genet. 2002; 39:352-8. [PMID: 12011157]
  21. Burdon KP, Wirth MG, Mackey DA, Russell-Eggitt IM, Craig JE, Elder JE, Dickinson JL, Sale MM. Investigation of crystallin genes in familial cataract, and report of two disease associated mutations. Br J Ophthalmol. 2004; 88:79-83. [PMID: 14693780]
  22. Shentu X, Yao K, Xu W, Zheng S, Hu S, Gong X. Special fasciculiform cataract caused by a mutation in the gammaD-crystallin gene. Mol Vis. 2004; 10:233-9. [PMID: 15064679]
  23. Xu WZ, Zheng S, Xu SJ, Huang W, Yao K, Zhang SZ. Autosomal dominant coralliform cataract related to a missense mutation of the gammaD-crystallin gene. Chin Med J (Engl). 2004; 117:727-32. [PMID: 15161542]
  24. Plotnikova OV, Kondrashov FA, Vlasov PK, Grigorenko AP, Ginter EK, Rogaev EI. Conversion and Compensatory Evolution of the γ-Crystallin Genes and Identification of a Cataractogenic Mutation That Reverses the Sequence of the Human CRYGD Gene to an Ancestral State. Am J Hum Genet. 2007; 81:32-43. [PMID: 17564961]
  25. Li F, Wang S, Gao C, Liu S, Zhao B, Zhang M, Huang S, Zhu S, Ma X. Mutation G61C in the CRYGD gene causing autosomal dominant congenital coralliform cataracts. Mol Vis. 2008; 14:378-86. [PMID: 18334953]
  26. Santana A, Waiswol M, Arcieri ES, Cabral de Vasconcellos JP, Barbosa de Melo M. Mutation analysis of CRYAA, CRYGC, and CRYGD associated with autosomal dominant congenital cataract in Brazilian families. Mol Vis. 2009; 15:793-800. [PMID: 19390652]
  27. Roshan M, Vijaya PH, Lavanya GR, Shama PK, Santhiya ST, Graw J, Gopinath PM, Satyamoorthy K. A novel human CRYGD mutation in a juvenile autosomal dominant Cataract. Mol Vis. 2010; 16:887-96. [PMID: 20508808]
  28. Messina-Baas OM, Gonzalez-Huerta LM, Cuevas-Covarrubias SA. Two affected siblings with nuclear cataract associated with a novel missense mutation in the CRYGD gene. Mol Vis. 2006; 12:995-1000. [PMID: 16943771]
  29. Zhang LY, Gong B, Tong JP, Fan DS, Chiang SW, Lou D, Lam DS, Yam GH, Pang CP. A novel γD-crystallin mutation causes mild changes in protein properties but leads to congenital coralliform cataract. Mol Vis. 2009; 15:1521-9. [PMID: 19668596]
  30. Zhang LY, Yam GH, Fan DS, Tam PO, Lam DS, Pang CP. A novel deletion variant of γD-crystallin responsible for congenital nuclear cataract. Mol Vis. 2007; 13:2096-104. [PMID: 18079686]
  31. Hansen L, Yao W, Eiberg H, Kjaer KW, Baggesen K, Hejtmancik JF, Rosenberg T. Genetic Heterogeneity in Microcornea-Cataract: Five Novel Mutations in CRYAA, CRYGD, and GJA8. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2007; 48:3937-44. [PMID: 17724170]
  32. Devi RR, Yao W, Vijayalakshmi P, Sergeev YV, Sundaresan P, Hejtmancik JF. Crystallin gene mutations in Indian families with inherited pediatric cataract. Mol Vis. 2008; 14:1157-70. [PMID: 18587492]
  33. Graw J, Neuhäuser-Klaus A, Klopp N, Selby PB, Löster J, Favor J. Genetic and allelic heterogeneity of Cryg mutations in eight distinct forms of dominant cataract in the mouse. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2004; 45:1202-13. [PMID: 15037589]
  34. Arnold K, Bordoli L, Kopp J, Schwede T. The SWISS-MODEL Workspace: a web-based environment for protein structure homology modelling. Bioinformatics. 2006; 22:195-201. [PMID: 16301204]
  35. Pande A, Pande J, Asherie N, Lomakin A, Ogun O, King J, Benedek GB. Crystal cataracts: human genetic cataract caused by protein crystallization. Crystal cataracts: human genetic cataract caused by protein crystallization. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2001; 98:6116-20. [PMID: 11371638]
  36. Evans P, Wyatt K, Wistow GJ, Bateman OA, Wallace BA, Slingsby C. The P23T cataract mutation causes loss of solubility of folded gammaD-crystallin. J Mol Biol. 2004; 343:435-44. [PMID: 15451671]