Vision Molecular Biology

Suraj Bhat, PhD, Director

Contact Information
Phone: (310) 825-9544
Fax: (310) 794-2144
Email: [email protected]

Location Address
Stein Eye Institute
100 Stein Plaza, Room B-118
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Research Areas

Molecular Genetics of the Development of the Vertebrate Eye
Relating Gene Activity to the Phenotype of Vision


The Vision Molecular Biology Laboratory studies regulation of specific gene expression during functional differentiation and development of the vertebrate eye. The laboratory's focus is on the development of the lens and the retina. This involves isolation and characterization of genes and gene products--at the DNA level , identifying regulatory sequences/elements and their interacting factors using in vivo and in vitro systems with manipulated gene sequences; at the protein level, investigatiing the physiological function of the gene product. Two interrelated paradigms currently under investigation are: 1) Molecular basis of the differential expression of the gene for the small heat shock protein Alpha B-crystallin, a protein associated with with vision (e.g. in the ocular lens), oncogenesis (e.g. in breast cancer) and neural degeneration (e.g. in Alzheimer's disease). The laboratory is interested in (a) elucidating developmental and tissue-specific control of the heat shock promoter of the Alpha B-crystallin gene and (b) understanding the biological function of the Alpha B-crystallin protein. Tissue-wise, these studies encompass differentiating ocular lens fiber cells, the retina, the brain and the heart. 2) Molecular biological investigations into understanding the genetic control of the growth of the eye globe. The focus is on revealing its possible local control in the retina. In addition to understanding neural differentiation in the inner retina, so indispensable to retinal function, these studies have a direct bearing on gaining insight into the molecular basis of Emmetropia (In-focus vision) and its dysfunction, Myopia (short sightedness). These studies entail attempts at relating gene activity to the functional phenotype of vision.

Representative Publications

Somasundaram T, Bhat SP. Developmentally dictated expression of heat shock factors and specific interaction of the αB-crystallin heat shock promoter with HSF4. J Biol Chem 2004;279:44497-503.

Gangalum RK, Schibler M, Bhat SP. Small heat shock protein αB-crystallin is part of cell cycle dependent Golgi reorganization J Biol Chem 2004;279:43374-7.

Bhat SP. Transparency and non-refractive functions of crystallins--a proposal Exp Eye Res 2004;79:809-16.

Somasundaram T, Bhat SP. Canonical heat shock element in the αB-crystallin gene shows tissue-specific and developmentally controlled interactions with heat shock factor. J Biol Chem 2000;275:17154-9.

Bhat SP, Rayner SA, Huang CM, Ariyasu RG. Quantitative estimation of RNA transcripts suggests persistence of Pax-6 expression in the postembryonic chick retina. Dev Neurosci 1999;21:140-6.

Bhat SP, Hale IL, Matsumoto B, Elghanayan D. Ectopic Expression of αB-crystallin in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells suggests a nuclear role for this protein. Eur J Cell Biol 1999;78:143-50.


National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health: Gene Expression in Normal and Cataractous Lens, 06/01/06-05/31/11

Available Positions

Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Technician