As one of the most abundantly expressed proteins in the mammalian corneal epithelium, aldehyde dehydrogenase 3A1 (ALDH3A1) plays critical and multifaceted roles in protecting the cornea from oxidative stress. Recent studies have demonstrated that one protective mechanism of ALDH3A1 is the direct absorption of UV-energy, which reduces damage to other corneal proteins such as glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase through a competition mechanism. UV-exposure, however, leads to the inactivation of ALDH3A1 in such cases. In the current study, we demonstrate that UV-light caused soluble, non-native aggregation of ALDH3A1 due to both covalent and non-covalent interactions, and that the formation of the aggregates was responsible for the loss of ALDH3A1 enzymatic activity. Spectroscopic studies revealed that as a result of aggregation, the secondary and tertiary structure of ALDH3A1 were perturbed. LysC peptide mapping using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry shows that UV-induced damage to ALDH3A1 also includes chemical modifications to Trp, Met, and Cys residues. Surprisingly, the conserved active site Cys of ALDH3A1 does not appear to be affected by UV-exposure; this residue remained intact after exposure to UV-light that rendered the enzyme completely inactive. Collectively, our data suggest that the UV-induced inactivation of ALDH3A1 is a result of non-native aggregation and associated structural changes rather than specific damage to the active site Cys.
Estey, T., Chen, Y., Carpenter, J. F., & Vasiliou, V. (2010). Structural and functional modifications of corneal crystallin ALDH3A1 by UVB light. PLoS ONE, 5(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0015218