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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Mar 18;100(6):3179-84. Epub 2003 Feb 28.

Spectroscopic and morphological studies of human retinal lipofuscin granules.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.


The emission properties of ocular lipofuscin granules isolated from human retinal pigment epithelial cells are examined by using steady-state fluorescence spectroscopy and spectrally resolved confocal microscopy. The shape of the emission spectrum of a thick sample of lipofuscin granules dried on glass varies with excitation energy. The polarization of this emission is wavelength-dependent, exhibiting significant polarization near the excitation wavelength and becoming mostly depolarized over the majority of the emission spectrum. These results show that the yellow-emitting fluorophores [e.g., A2E (2-[2,6-dimethyl-8-(2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexen-1-yl)-1E,3E,5E,7E-octatetraenyl]-1-(2-hydroxyethyl)-4-[4-methyl-6-(2,6,6-trimethyl-1-cyclohexen-1-yl)-1E,3E,5E-hexatrienyl]-pyridinium)] are excited as a result of energy transfer within the granules and therefore are not the dominant blue-absorbing chromophores within lipofuscin granules. Atomic force microscopy images show lipofuscin granules to be an aggregated structure. Bulk and in vivo emission measurements must therefore take into account the effect of Raleigh scattering. When corrected for scattering, the emission spectrum of a thick lipofuscin deposit or intracellular lipofuscin resembles that for A2E. The sum of the emission spectra of a collection of individual granules also resembles the emission spectrum of A2E, but the spectrum of individual granules varies significantly. This result suggests that the agreement between the emission spectra of lipofuscin and A2E is fortuitous, and the collective data indicate the presence of several blue-absorbing chromophores in lipofuscin and show A2E is not the dominant yellow-emitting fluorophore in many of the granules studied.

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