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Mol Vis. 2011;17:2311-7. Epub 2011 Aug 27.

Cis-urocanic acid inhibits SAPK/JNK signaling pathway in UV-B exposed human corneal epithelial cells in vitro.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.



The cornea is sensitive to ultraviolet B (UV-B) radiation-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. Its clinical manifestations are photokeratitis and climatic droplet keratopathy. Urocanic acid (UCA) is a major endogenous UV-absorbing chromophore in the epidermis and it is also an efficacious immunosuppressant. We have previously shown that cis-UCA can suppress UV-B-induced interleukin-6 and -8 secretion and cytotoxicity in human corneal epithelium (HCE) cells. In the current study, we further wanted to investigate the effects of cis-UCA on UV-B-induced inflammatory and apoptotic responses in HCE-2 cells, focusing on the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) and AP-1 (subunits c-Fos and c-Jun) signaling pathways.


After exposing HCE-2 cells to UV-B and cis-UCA, DNA binding of c-Fos, c-Jun and NF-κB was measured with ELISA. In addition, the endogenous levels of phosphorylated stress-activated protein kinase/c-Jun N-terminal kinase (phospho-SAPK/JNK) and phospho-c-Jun were determined. The proliferative capacity of HCE-2 cells was also quantified, and the cytotoxicity of the cis-UCA and UV-B treatments was monitored by measuring the release of lactate dehydrogenase enzyme in the culture medium.


UV-B irradiation induced the binding of transcription factors c-Jun, c-Fos, and NF-κB to DNA. Cis-UCA inhibited the binding of c-Jun and c-Fos but not that of NF-κB. Moreover, UV-B increased the levels of phospho-c-Jun and phospho-JNK, and the expression of both was attenuated by cis-UCA. Cis-UCA also alleviated the UV-B-induced apoptosis and proliferative decline in human corneal cells.


The results from this study suggest that cis-UCA suppresses JNK signaling pathway, which provides potential for treating UV-B-induced inflammatory defects in human corneal cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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