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Ophthalmologica. 2018;239(4):215-224. doi: 10.1159/000486404. Epub 2018 Feb 27.

Activation of the ERK1/2-MAPK Signaling Pathway by Complement Serum in UV-POS-Pretreated ARPE-19 Cells.

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Ophtha-Lab, Department of Ophthalmology at St. Franziskus Hospital, Münster, Germany.
Department of Ophthalmology at St. Franziskus Hospital, Münster, Germany.
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Duisburg-Essen, Essen, Germany.



Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells undergo functional changes upon complement stimulation, which play a role in the pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These effects are in part enhanced by pretreating ARPE-19 cells with UV-irradiated photoreceptor outer segments (UV-POS) in vitro. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of human complement serum (HCS) treatment on p44/42 mitogen-activated protein kinase (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 [ERK1/2]) activation in ARPE-19 cells pretreated with UV-POS.


UV-POS-pretreated ARPE-19 cells were stimulated with 5% HCS or heat-inactivated HCS (HI-HCS) as a control. Pro tein expression of phosphorylated (activated) ERK1/2, total ERK1/2, Bax, and Bcl-2 was analyzed by Western blotting. Cell culture supernatants were analyzed for IL-6, IL-8, MCP-1, and VEGF by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Furthermore, extra- and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) were determined.


The amount of phosphorylated ERK1/2 was increased in UV-POS-pretreated ARPE-19 cells, especially in combination with HCS stimulation, compared to non-pretreated ARPE-19 cells incubated with HCS alone or HI-HCS. The same observation was made for Bax and Bcl-2 expression. Furthermore, an increase in extra- and intracellular ROS was detected in UV-POS-pretreated ARPE-19 cells. The ELISA data showed that the production of IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1 tended to increase in response to HCS in both UV-POS-pretreated and non-pretreated ARPE-19 cells.


Our data imply that ERK1/2 activation in ARPE-19 cells may represent a response mechanism to cellular and oxidative stress, associated with apoptosis-regulating factors such as Bax and Bcl-2, which might play a role in AMD, while ERK1/2 seems not to represent the crucial signaling pathway mediating the functional changes in RPE cells in response to complement stimulation.


Age-related macular degeneration; Complement stimulation; ERK1/2-MAPK; Oxidative stress; Retinal pigment epithelial cells

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