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Nitroxide free radicals protect macular carotenoids against chemical destruction (bleaching) during lipid peroxidation. Free Radic Biol Med 2016 12;101:446-454



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Macular xanthophylls (MXs) lutein and zeaxanthin are dietary carotenoids that are selectively concentrated in the human eye retina, where they are thought to protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by multiple mechanisms, including filtration of phototoxic blue light and quenching of singlet oxygen and triplet states of photosensitizers. These physical protective mechanisms require that MXs be in their intact structure. Here, we investigated the protection of the intact structure of zeaxanthin incorporated into model membranes subjected to oxidative modification by water- and/or membrane-soluble small nitroxide free radicals. Model membranes were formed from saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated phosphatidylcholines (PCs). Oxidative modification involved autoxidation, iron-mediated, and singlet oxygen-mediated lipid peroxidation. The extent of chemical destruction (bleaching) of zeaxanthin was evaluated from its absorption spectra and compared with the extent of lipid peroxidation evaluated using the thiobarbituric acid assay. Nitroxide free radicals with different polarity (membrane/water partition coefficients) were used. The extent of zeaxanthin bleaching increased with membrane unsaturation and correlated with the rate of PC oxidation. Protection of the intact structure of zeaxanthin by membrane-soluble nitroxides was much stronger than that by water-soluble nitroxides. The combination of zeaxanthin and lipid-soluble nitroxides exerted strong synergistic protection against singlet oxygen-induced lipid peroxidation. The synergistic effect may be explained in terms of protection of the intact zeaxanthin structure by effective scavenging of free radicals by nitroxides, therefore allowing zeaxanthin to quench the primary oxidant, singlet oxygen, effectively by the physical protective mechanism. The redox state of nitroxides was monitored using electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy. Both nitroxide free radicals and their reduced form, hydroxylamines, were equally effective. Obtained data were compared with the protective effects of α-tocopherol, which is the natural antioxidant and protector of MXs within the retina. The new strategies employed here to maintain the intact structure of MXs may enhance their protective potential against AMD.

Author List

Zareba M, Widomska J, Burke JM, Subczynski WK


Witold K. Subczynski PhD Professor in the Biophysics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Biological Assay
Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
Lipid Peroxidation
Nitrogen Oxides