Cataracts are one of the most common eye diseases that can cause blindness. Discovering susceptibility factors in the proteome that contribute to cataract development would be helpful in gaining new insights in the molecular mechanisms of the cataract process. We used label-free nanoflow ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry to compare aqueous humor protein expressions in cataract patients with different cataract risk factors such as diabetes mellitus (DM) and smoking and in controls (with cataract) without risk exposure. Eight patients with diabetes and who smoked (with double risk factors), five patients with diabetes and five patients who smoked (both with a single risk factor), and nine aged-matched cataract controls patients (non-risk exposure) were enrolled. In total, 136 aqueous humor proteins were identified, of which only alpha-2-Heremans–Schmid (HS)-glycoprotein was considered to be significantly risk-associated because it was differentially expressed in these three groups and exhibited increased expression with increasing risk factors. Significant changes in the aqueous humor level of alpha-2-HS-glycoprotein between DM and control samples and between smoking and control samples were confirmed using ELISA. The alpha-2-HS-glycoprotein, called fetuin-a, could be a potential aqueous biomarker associated with DM and smoking, which were cataract risk factors.
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