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Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68(5):309-15.

Decrease in vitamin C concentration in human lenses during cataract progression.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Chimie Analytique, Institut National Agronomique, Paris, France.


Cataract formation is believed to result from an oxidative insult which decreases the antioxidant defense of the lens, particularly the vitamin C concentration. Upon oxidation, vitamin C contributes with glucose to protein glycation. It also favours tryptophan oxidation, resulting in fluorescent peptide cross-links and protein insolubilisation. The relationship between cataract and lenticular vitamin C was analysed in 48 cataractous lens nuclei classified into four severity grades, considering the sum of the colour and opacity. Ascorbic and dehydroascorbic acids were quantified by HPLC-fluorescence. The Amadori product was measured by means of furosine, advanced glycation end products by their fluorescence and tryptophan concentration by HPLC-UV. The lens vitamin C concentration significantly decreased with cataract severity, but mostly in severe brown cataracts (around 88 mumol/100 g lens in mild cataracts, and 50 mumol/100 g in dark brown lenses). The dehydroascorbic acid concentration was always low and stable (1.9 +/- 0.9 mumol/100 g), as was the furosine concentration (0.4 +/- 0.1 mumol/g). The fluorescence of insoluble advanced glycated end products was significantly higher in severe cataracts than in milder ones. The peptide tryptophan content was stable but the tryptophan to tyrosine ratio decreased and was highly correlated to the ascorbic acid concentration. Vitamin C content appears to be a good indicator of cataract severity, suggesting that oxidation could take part in cataract progression.

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