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J Biol Chem. 2011 Mar 11;286(10):7958-65. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.178640. Epub 2010 Nov 12.

Deuterium enrichment of vitamin A at the C20 position slows the formation of detrimental vitamin A dimers in wild-type rodents.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Degenerative eye diseases are the most common causes of untreatable blindness. Accumulation of lipofuscin (granular deposits) in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a hallmark of major degenerative eye diseases such as Stargardt disease, Best disease, and age-related macular degeneration. The intrinsic reactivity of vitamin A leads to its dimerization and to the formation of pigments such as A2E, and is believed to play a key role in the formation of ocular lipofuscin. We sought a clinically pragmatic method to slow vitamin A dimerization as a means to elucidate the pathogenesis of macular degenerations and to develop a therapeutic intervention. We prepared vitamin A enriched with the stable isotope deuterium at carbon twenty (C20-D(3)-vitamin A). Results showed that dimerization of deuterium-enriched vitamin A was considerably slower than that of vitamin A at natural abundance as measured in vitro. Administration of C20-D(3)-vitamin A to wild-type rodents with no obvious genetic defects in vitamin A processing, slowed A2E biosynthesis. This study elucidates the mechanism of A2E biosynthesis and suggests that administration of C20-D(3)-vitamin A may be a viable, long-term approach to retard vitamin A dimerization and by extension, may slow lipofuscin deposition and the progression of common degenerative eye diseases.

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