The functional roles of bioelectrical signals (ES) created by the flow of specific ions at the mammalian lens equator are poorly understood.
We detected that mature, denucleated lens fibers expressed high levels of the α1 and β1 subunits of Na+/K+‐ATPase (ATP1A1 and ATP1B1 of the sodium pump) and had a hyperpolarized membrane potential difference (Vmem). In contrast, differentiating, nucleated lens fiber cells had little ATP1A1 and ATP1B1 and a depolarized Vmem. Mimicking the natural equatorial ES with an applied electrical field (EF) induced a striking reorientation of lens epithelial cells to lie perpendicular to the direction of the EF. An EF also promoted the expression of β‐crystallin, aquaporin‐0 (AQP0) and the Beaded Filament Structural Protein 2 (BFSP2) in lens epithelial cells (LECs), all of which are hallmarks of differentiation. In addition, applied EF activated the AKT and CDC2 and inhibition of AKT reduced the activation of CDC2. Our results indicate that the endogenous bioelectrical signal at the lens equator promotes differentiation of LECs into denucleated lens fiber cells via depolarization of Vmem. Development of methods and devices of EF application or amplification in vivo may supply a novel treatment for lens diseases and even promote regeneration of a complete new lens following cataract surgery.
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