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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1990 Aug;31(8):1433-43.

Lipids in human lipofuscin-enriched subcellular fractions of two age populations. Comparison with rod outer segments and neural retina.

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Louisiana State University Eye Center, New Orleans 70112.


The fatty acid composition and content of total phospholipids, free fatty acids (FFA), diacylglycerols (DG), phosphatidylcholine (PC), phosphatidylserine (PS), and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) were studied in lipofuscin granules of human donors in two age groups, young (less than 40 yr old) and old (more than 47 yr old), and compared with lipids of the photoreceptor rod outer segments (ROS). Neural retina (NR) and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) also were studied. In both age groups, the lipid composition of the lipofuscin granules differed from that of the ROS, with a decrease in the proportion of phospholipid and an increase in FFA, suggesting very high phospholipase activity in the lipofuscin granules. In ROS, docosahexaenoic acid (22:6) was the predominant FFA, whereas palmitic acid (16:0), arachidonic acid (20:4) and oleic acid (18:1) were the major fatty acids in the lipofuscin granules. The fatty acid compositions of PC, PE, and PS of lipofuscin granules were different from those of the retina. There was proportionally less 22:6 in lipofuscin, and the amounts of saturated and monounsaturated fatty acyl chains such as 16:0, stearate (18:0), and 18:1 were greater than in retina. Compared to ROS, the lipofuscin granules showed a significant decrease in DG containing 20:4 but not 22:6. With aging, there was a decrease in the amount of total polyunsaturated fatty acyl chains (22:6 and 20:4) in the lipofuscin granules. These results show that the lipid composition of lipofuscin is different from that of ingested ROS, probably because of increased phospholipase and peroxidative activities in lipofuscin, directed toward ingested ROS as well as toward other materials from the RPE and blood.

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