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Exp Eye Res. 2001 Apr;72(4):411-21.

The presence of a human UV filter within the lens represents an oxidative stress.

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Australian Cataract Research Foundation, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.


It has recently been demonstrated that, with age, UV filters such as 3-hydroxykynurenine glucoside, bind to proteins in the human lens. This covalent interaction leads to colouration of the normal lens, and results from the instability of the kynurenine side chain. Other primate UV filters, in addition to containing the same side chain, can also be readily oxidized. One such compound is 3-hydroxykynurenine (3OHKyn). It has been proposed that oxidation of bound and/or free UV filters, such as 3OHKyn may give rise to the lens colouration associated with age-related nuclear cataract. Therefore it has become important to understand the oxidation of 3OHKyn within the lens. In this study, intact bovine lenses (which lack UV filters) were incubated with 3OHKyn and various lens parameters monitored. The effect of exposure to hyperbaric oxygen (HBO) was also assessed, both alone, and in combination with prior 3OHKyn incubation. Glutathione (GSH), protein sulfhydryl and protein-bound sulfhydryl levels, as well as soluble protein content and gel filtration profiles, were obtained for cortical and nuclear regions after defined periods of incubation. The presence of the primate UV filter, 3OHKyn, at concentrations similar to those present in the human lens, was shown to produce considerable oxidative stress within the lens, as judged by its effect on GSH. This effect was noted under normobaric conditions, but was exacerbated by increased oxygen. Exposure of lenses to HBO caused a marked fall in GSH in cortical and nuclear regions. This effect was exaggerated in the presence of 3OHKyn. HBO treatment also lead to a fall in protein sulfhydryl content, however, this was only partial (approximately 1 mol SH per mol protein) and changed only slowly, even with extended periods of exposure to HBO, suggesting that most crystallin sulfhydryl groups may be buried. 3OHKyn did not appreciably affect this oxidation although it did cause an increase in the level of protein-bound sulfhydryl. HBO treatment produced a more than two-fold increase in protein-bound sulfhydryl content in the cortex. There was little influence of 3OHKyn alone on protein solubility, even with extended periods of incubation, however, incubation for 72 hr in the presence of HBO caused a significant increase in insoluble protein particularly in the nucleus. This insolubilization was further increased in the presence of 3OHKyn. FPLC profiles showed that the proportion of gamma and beta crystallins in the soluble fraction decreased following HBO, suggesting that these may be involved in disulfide bond formation. This study demonstrates that a readily oxidized compound, such as the primate UV filter 3OHKyn, represents an oxidative stress within the lens and that such oxidative processes can be exacerbated if the concentration of oxygen within the lens is increased. We speculate that this factor may account for the evolution of unusually high levels of glutathione reductase in human lenses.

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