Compositional studies of human RPE lipofuscin: mechanisms of molecular modifications



The accumulation of lipofuscin has previously been implicated in several retinal diseases including Best's macular dystrophy, Stargardt's disease and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Previously one of the major fluorophores of lipofuscin was identified as a bis-retinoid pyridinium salt called A2E, which is known to photochemically cause damage. In addition to A2E, there are numerous components in RPE lipofuscin that are unidentified. These compounds were determined to be structurally related to A2E by their fragmentation pattern with losses of 106, 190, 174 and/or 150 amu from the parent ion and the formation of fragments of ca 592 amu. The vast majority consists of relatively hydrophobic components corresponding to derivatized A2E with molecular weights in discrete groups of 800–900, 970–1080 and > 1200 m/z regions. In order to determine the mechanism of these modifications, A2E was chemically modified by; (1) the formation of specific esters, (2) reaction with specific aldehydes and (3) spontaneous auto-oxidation. The contribution of ester formation to the naturally occurring components of lipofuscin was discounted since their fragmentation patterns were different to those found in vivo. Alternatively, reactions with specific aldehydes result in nearly identical products as those found in vivo. Artificial aging of RPE lipofuscin gives a complex mixture of structurally related components. This results from the auto- and/or photooxidation of A2E to form aldehydes, which then back react with A2E giving a series of higher molecular weight products. The majority of these modifications result in compounds that are much more hydrophobic than A2E. These higher molecular weight materials have increased values of log P compared to A2E. This increase in hydrophobicity most likely aids in the sequestering of A2E into granules with the concomitant diminution of its reactivity. Therefore, these processes may serve as protective mechanisms for the RPE. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.