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Abstract

Sunlight exposure of the eye leads to pathologies including photokeratitis, cortical cataracts, pterygium, actinic conjunctivitis and age-related macular degeneration. It is well established that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiations leads to DNA damage, mainly cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs). CPD formation is the principal factor involved in skin cancer. However, the exact mechanism by which sunlight induces ocular pathologies is not well understood. To shed light on this issue, we quantified the CPD formation onto DNA of rabbit ocular cells following UVB exposure. We found that CPDs were induced only in the structures of the ocular anterior chamber (cornea, iris and lens) and were more concentrated in the corneal epithelium. Residual UVB that pass through the cornea are completely absorbed by the anterior layers of the iris. CPDs were also detected in the central portion of the lens that is not protected by the iris (pupil). By determining the UV-induced DNA damage formation in eyes, we showed that anterior ocular structures are a reliable physical barrier that protects the subjacent structures from the toxic effects of UV. Although the corneal epithelium is the structure where most of the CPDs were detected, no cancer is related to solar exposure.