Support for our endeavors
comes primarily from the
National Institutes of Health


Usha Andley, PhD


Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

My laboratory studies the biochemical basis of human cataract formation. Several approaches are being used at understanding the function of alpha-crystallin, a major protein of the lens and a member of the small heat shock protein family of molecular chaperones. This protein, composed of two gene products alpha A and alpha B, plays important roles in the lens and other tissues. Mutations in alpha A and alpha B crystallins form the basis of several hereditary cataracts. To understand the function of alpha-crystallin in the lens, and how deterioration of chaperone function results in cataract development., we are using several genetic and biochemical approaches. Previously it was thought that alpha A acted simply as a sink for unfolding proteins in lens fiber cells. However, recent work showed that lens epithelial cultures of alpha A knockout mice have slower growth and an altered cell cycle distribution, and these findings may explain why the alpha A null lenses are smaller than controls. It was also found that lens epithelial cells derived from alpha B null mice transform at a higher rate and demonstrate increased proliferation and genomic instability. These new finding indicate that alpha A and alpha B have important cellular roles not previously recognized. Studies now focus on the interaction of alpha A and alpha B crystallins with cytoskeletal and cell-cel adhesion proteins. These studies use confocal microscopy, fluorescence, size-exclusion chromatography and proteomic techniques to study the role of alpha-crystallin in the lens. In a related project, my laboratory is examining the protective phenotype conferred by the expression of this protein in lens epithelial cells, and the effect of specific mutations associated with hereditary cataract in mice expressing mutant alpha-crystallin. These studies will enhance the understanding of cataract development and progression in animal models, which can be correlated with human cataract development.

Research Interests

  • Function of chaperone proteins in cataract


  • BSc, Delhi University, India (Chemistry Honors), 1970
  • MSc, Physical Chemistry, Delhi University, India, 1972
  • PhD, Biochemistry, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, 1977


  • Member, Washington University Animal Studies Committee, 2000-2004
  • Frequent Member, Washington University Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences ad hoc Appointment and Promotions Committees, 2002-2008
  • Member, Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences, Washington University, 2002-present
  • Member, Washington University Medical School Admissions Committee, 2003-2009
  • Member, Research Advisory Committee, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, 2005-2009
  • Member, Washington University Disclosure Review Committee, 2006-2009


  • Reviewer, Research Corporation, Port Washington, New York, 1987
  • Reviewer, National Science Foundation, 1990
  • Consultant to Metaphase Corporation, 1266 Andes Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63132, 1992-2000
  • Member, Program Planning Committee, ARVO (Chair, 2004), 2001-2004
  • Vistakon® Vision Care, Johnson and Johnson Company, 2007-present


  • Chemistry Honors First Prize Award, Miranda House, Delhi University, India, 1969 & 1970
  • Full Scholarship, University Grants Commission, New Delhi, India, 1972-1977
  • Charles A. King Trust Fellowship, The Medical Foundation, Boston, MA, 1982-1983
  • Cooperative Cataract Research Group Travel Award, 1989
  • Research to Prevent Blindness Robert E. McCormick Research Scholar Award, 1996
  • Research to Prevent Blindness Lew R. Wasserman Award, 2000
  • National Foundation for Eye Research Award for Cataract Research, 2004
  • Fellow, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, 2010
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