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The Pro-oxidant Effects of Interactions of Ascorbate with Photoexcited Melanin Fade Away with Aging of the Retina


  • This invited paper is part of the Symposium-in-Print: Melanins.

*Corresponding author email: (Małgorzata Różanowska)


Photoexcited melanin from retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) has been shown to induce photo-oxidation of ascorbate with concomitant generation of hydrogen peroxide. The aim of this study was to test whether the age-related changes in melanin content and distribution in the RPE affect the susceptibility of RPE cells to ascorbate-mediated photo-oxidation. Our results demonstrate that there is an age-dependent shift in the pathways with which ascorbate interacts in human RPE. In young RPE, melanin–ascorbate interactions may lead to pro-oxidant effects, but in the aged there is no net increase in photo-oxidation in the presence of ascorbate in comparison with samples without ascorbate. However, as ascorbate undergoes light-induced depletion and photogenerates ascorbyl free radical in the old RPE cells with initial yields similar to that observed for young RPE, an influence of ascorbate on oxidation pathways is revealed in the old RPE as well. Interestingly, the pro-oxidant effects of photoexcited melanolipofuscin–ascorbate interactions are greater than for photoexcited melanosomes when normalized to the same melanin content. The pro-oxidant effects of photoexcited melanin–ascorbate interactions are strongly dependent on the irradiation wavelength, this being the greatest for the shortest wavelength studied (340 nm) and steeply decreasing with increasing wavelength but still detectable even at 600 nm.