Inhibition of amyloid fibrillation of γD-crystallin model peptide by the cochineal Carmine

Malak Abu-Hussien, Guru Krishnakumar Viswanathan, Lia Borisover, Michael Mimouni, Hamutal Engel, Shiri Zayit-Soudry, Ehud Gazit, Daniel Segal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


γD-crystallin is among the most abundant γ-crystallins in the human eye lens which are essential for preserving its transparency. Aging, and environmental changes, cause crystallins to lose their native soluble structure and aggregate, resulting in the formation of cataract. Current treatment of cataract is surgical removal which is costly. Pharmaceutical therapeutics of cataract is an unmet need. We report a screen for small molecules capable of inhibiting aggregation of human γD-crystallin. Using a highly amyloidogenic hexapeptide model 41GCWMLY46 derived from the full-length protein, we screened a library of 68 anthraquinone molecules using ThT fluorescence assay. A leading hit, the cochineal Carmine, effectively reduced aggregation of the model GDC6 peptide in dose dependent manner. Similar effect was observed toward aggregation of the full-length γD-crystallin. Transmission electron microscopy, intrinsic Tryptophan fluorescence and ANS fluorescence assays corroborated these results. Insights obtained from molecular docking suggested that Carmine interaction with monomeric GDC6 involved hydrogen bonding with Ace group, Cys, Met residues and hydrophobic contact with Trp residue. Carmine was non-toxic toward retinal cells in culture. It also reduced ex vivo the turbidity of human extracted cataract material. Collectively, our results indicate that Carmine could be used for developing new therapeutics to treat cataract.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)342-351
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • Carmine
  • Cataract
  • γD-crystallin


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