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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 Nov 1;54(12):7189-97. doi: 10.1167/iovs.13-12793.

1,2-naphthoquinone stimulates lipid peroxidation and cholesterol domain formation in model membranes.

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Elucida Research LLC, Beverly, Massachusetts.



Naphthalene induces cataract formation through the accumulation of its reactive metabolite, 1,2-naphthoquinone (1,2-NQ), in the ocular lens. 1,2-NQ increases lens protein oxidation and disrupts fiber cell membrane function; however, the association of these effects with changes in membrane structure is not understood. The goal of this study was to determine the direct effects of 1,2-NQ on membrane lipid oxidation and structural organization.


Iodometric approaches were used to measure the effects of naphthalene and 1,2-NQ on lipid hydroperoxide (LOOH) formation in model membranes composed of cholesterol and dilinoleoylphosphatidylcholine. Membrane samples were prepared at various cholesterol-to-phospholipid mole ratios and subjected to autoxidation at 37°C for 48 hours in the absence or presence of either agent alone (0.1-5.0 μM) or in combination with vitamin E. Small-angle x-ray diffraction was used to measure the effects of naphthalene and 1,2-NQ on membrane structure before and after exposure to oxidative stress.


1,2-NQ increased LOOH formation by 250% (P < 0.001) and 350% (P < 0.001) at 1.0 and 5.0 μM, respectively, whereas naphthalene decreased LOOH levels by 25% (P < 0.01) and 10% (NS). The pro-oxidant effect of 1,2-NQ was inversely affected by membrane cholesterol enrichment and completely blocked by vitamin E. 1,2-NQ also increased cholesterol domain formation by 360% in membranes exposed to oxidative stress; however, no significant changes in membrane lipid organization were observed with naphthalene under the same conditions.


These data suggest a novel mechanism for naphthalene-induced cataract, facilitated by the direct effects of 1,2-NQ on lipid peroxidation and cholesterol domain formation.


1,2-naphthoquinone; cataractogenesis; cholesterol domains; lipid peroxidation; naphthalene

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