Ocular aldehyde dehydrogenases: Protection against ultraviolet damage and maintenance of transparency for vision

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Abstract

Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymes catalyze the NAD(P)+-dependent oxidation of a wide variety of endogenous and exogenous aldehydes to their corresponding acids. Some members of the ALDH superfamily of enzymes are abundantly expressed in the mammalian cornea and lens in a taxon-specific manner. Considered to be corneal and lens crystallins, they confer protective and transparent properties upon these ocular tissues. ALDH3A1 is highly expressed in the cornea of most mammals, with the exception of rabbit that expresses exclusively ALDH1A1 in the cornea. ALDH1A1 is present in both the cornea and lens of several animal species. As a result of their catalytic and non-catalytic functions, ALDH3A1 and ALDH1A1 proteins protect inner ocular tissues from ultraviolet radiation and reactive oxygen-induced damage. In addition, these corneal crystallins contribute to cellular transparency in corneal stromal keratocytes, supporting a structural role of these ALDH proteins. A putative regulatory function of ALDH3A1 on corneal cell proliferation has also been proposed. Finally, the three retinaldehyde dehydrogenases cooperatively mediate retinoic acid signaling during the eye development.

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