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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Nov 7;103(45):16644-8. Epub 2006 Oct 30.

Photoprotection of human retinal pigment epithelium cells against blue light-induced apoptosis by melanin free radicals from Sepia officinalis.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Chicago, 5735 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Cultured retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells can phagocytize large foreign particles. Heterogeneous melanin aggregates from Sepia officinalis, a species of cuttlefish, were fed to cultured human RPE cells to produce cells laden with Sepia melanin. Blue light-induced apoptosis (BLIA) assays were performed by flow cytometry on parallel cultures consisting of RPE cells isolated from independent eyes and evenly divided into two cultures, one fed Sepia melanin and one containing only native melanin. After culturing and growth of the cells under blue light illumination for 7 days, the apoptosis percentage of all cultures indicated that Sepia feeding significantly reduced BLIA. To account for Sepia photoprotection, continuous-wave EPR and time-resolved EPR experiments were performed with parallel RPE cultures by using UV (355 nm) and green (532 nm) laser irradiation. Continuous-wave EPR spectra prove that the concentrations of intrinsic and extrinsic melanin free radicals in the Sepia-RPE culture are large compared with those concentrations in the RPE culture. Time-resolved EPR spectra indicate that both UV and green light produced extrinsic melanin radicals as radical pairs from the triplet manifold with a linear dependence on the number of photons per second. These experiments conclusively demonstrate that decreased RPE susceptibility to BLIA correlates with increased intracellular melanin free radical concentrations and that nonnative melanin can supplement native melanin photoprotection of RPE cells.

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