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Mol Vis. 2009 Sep 8;15:1799-805.

Cis-urocanic acid suppresses UV-B-induced interleukin-6 and -8 secretion and cytotoxicity in human corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells in vitro.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Kuopio, Kuopio, Finland.



Urocanic acid (UCA) is a major ultraviolet (UV)-absorbing endogenous chromophore in the epidermis and is also an efficacious immunosuppressant. The anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective effects of cis-UCA were studied in ocular surface cell cultures exposed to UV-B irradiation.


Human corneal epithelial cells (HCE-2) and human conjunctival epithelial cells (HCECs) were incubated with 10, 100, 1,000, and 5,000 microg/ml cis-UCA with and without a single UV-B irradiation dose. The concentrations of IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8, and TNF-alpha in the culture medium and caspase-3 activity in the cell extract sampled were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Cell viability was measured by the colorimetric MTT (3-(4,5-dimethyldiazol- 2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide) assay.


UV-B irradiation multiplied interleukin IL-6 and IL-8 secretion levels in HCE-2 cells and HCECs as analyzed with ELISA. Cell viability as measured by the MTT assay declined by 30%-50% in HCE-2 cells and by 20%-40% in HCECs after UV-B irradiation. Moreover, UV-B increased caspase-3 activity in both cell types as analyzed with ELISA. Treatment with 100 microg/ml cis-UCA completely suppressed IL-6 and IL-8 secretion, decreased caspase-3 activity, and improved cell viability against UV-B irradiation. No significant effects on IL-6 or IL-8 secretion, caspase-3 activity, or viability of the non-irradiated cells were observed with 100 microg/ml cis-UCA in both cell types. The 5,000 microg/ml concentration was toxic.


These findings indicate that cis-UCA may represent a promising anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective treatment option to suppress UV-B-induced inflammation and cellular damage in human corneal and conjunctival epithelial cells.

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