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Thioredoxin (TRx) is known to control redox homeostasis in cells. In recent years, a specific TRx binding protein called thioredoxin binding protein-2 (TBP-2) was found in other cell types and it appeared to negatively regulate TRx bioavailability and thereby control TRx biological function. In view of the sensitivity of lens transparency to redox status, proper regulation of TRx bioavailability is of the utmost importance. This study was conducted to examine the presence and function of TBP-2 in human lens epithelial cells (HLE B3). We cloned human lens TBP-2 from a human cDNA library (GenBank accession number AY 594328) and showed that it is fully homologous to the human brain TBP-2 gene. The recombinant TBP-2 protein was partially purified and mass spectrometric analysis confirmed its sequence homology to that of brain TBP-2. Immunoprecipitates obtained from HLE B3 cells using anti-TRx and anti-TBP-2 antibodies showed the presence of TRx and TBP-2 in immunoprecipitates indicating the formation of a TRx-TBP-2 complex in vivo. Furthermore, under H2O2-stress conditions, TRx gene expression was transiently up-regulated while TBP-2 gene expression was inversely down-regulated as seen in both HLE B3 cells and in the epithelial cell layers from cultured pig lenses. Cells with overexpressed TBP-2 showed lower TRx activity, grew slower and were more susceptible to oxidative stress-induced apoptosis. This is the first report of the presence of a TRx-specific binding protein in the lens. Our data suggest that TBP-2 is likely a negative regulator for the bioavailability, and therefore, the overall function of TRx in the lens.
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