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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2001 Nov;42(12):3041-6.

Inhibition of RPE lysosomal and antioxidant activity by the age pigment lipofuscin.

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  • 1Cell and Molecular Biology Unit, Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom.



To determine whether lipofuscin is detrimental to lysosomal and antioxidant function in cultured human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells.


Isolated lipofuscin granules were fed to confluent RPE cultures and the cells maintained in basal medium for 7 days. Parallel cultures were established that did not receive lipofuscin. Cultures were either exposed to visible light (390-550 nm) at an irradiance of 2.8 mW/cm(2) or maintained in the dark at 37 degrees C for up to 24 hours. Cells were subsequently assessed for cell viability, lysosomal enzyme activity, and antioxidant capacity.


There was no loss of cell viability during the first 3 hours of light exposure, whereas a 10% loss of viability was observed in lipofuscin-fed cultures after 6 hours' exposure to light. Activities of acid phosphatase, N-acetyl-beta-glucuronidase, and cathepsin D were decreased by up to 50% in lipofuscin-fed cells exposed to light compared with either unfed cells or cells maintained in the dark. There was also a decrease in the antioxidant potential of RPE cells. Catalase and superoxide dismutase activities decreased by up to 60% and glutathione levels by 28% in light-exposed lipofuscin-fed cells compared with unfed cells or cells maintained in the dark.


Lipofuscin has the capacity to reduce the efficacy of the lysosomal and antioxidant systems in RPE cells that may play an important role in retinal ageing and the development of age-related macular degeneration.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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