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Mechanisms enhancing the protective functions of macular xanthophylls in the retina during oxidative stress. Exp Eye Res 2019 01;178:238-246



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Macular xanthophylls (MXs) are distinguished from other dietary carotenoids by their high membrane solubility and preferential transmembrane orientation. Additionally, these properties enhance the chemical and physical stability of MXs in the eye retina, and maximize their protective activities. The effectiveness of MXs' protection is also enhanced by their selective accumulation in the most vulnerable domains of retinal membranes. The retina is protected by MXs mainly through blue-light filtration, quenching of the excited triplet states of potent photosensitizers, and physical quenching of singlet oxygen. To perform these physical, photo-related actions, the structure of MXs should remain intact. However, the conjugated double-bond structure of MXs makes them highly chemically reactive and susceptible to oxidation. Chemical quenching of singlet oxygen and scavenging of free radicals destroy their intact structure and consume MXs. Consequently, their physical actions, which are critical to the protection of retina, are diminished. Thus, it is timely and important to identify mechanisms whereby the chemical destruction (bleaching) of MXs in retinal membranes can be reduced. It was shown that nitroxide free radicals (spin labels) located in membranes protect MXs against destruction, and their effect is especially pronounced during the light-induced formation of singlet oxygen. That should extend and enhance their positive action in the retina through physical processes. In this review, we will discuss possible applications of this new strategy during ophthalmological procedures, which can cause acute bleaching of MXs and damage the retina through oxidative processes.

Author List

Widomska J, 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

Eye Proteins
Lipid Peroxidation
Macula Lutea
Macular Degeneration
Oxidative Stress