Toxic lipofuscin in the RPE (retinal pigment epithelium) is implicated in blindness in AMD (age-related macular degeneration) or recessive Stargardt's disease patients. In the present study, we identified a novel fluorescent lipofuscin component in human and bovine RPEs. Using 1D and 2D NMR and MS, we confirmed the structure of this pigment and called it pdA2E. It exhibits absorbance maxima at 492 and 342 nm, and is susceptible to photocatalytic isomerization and oxidation. This fluorophore was also detected in the eyecup extracts of Abca4−/−Rdh8−/− (Abca4 encodes ATP-binding cassette transporter 4 and Rdh8 encodes retinol dehydrogenase 8) mice, an AMD/recessive Stargardt's disease model. Excess amassing of pdA2E within RPE cells caused significant cell viability loss and membrane damage. The formation of pdA2E occurred when atRAL (all-trans-retinal) reacted with excess ethanolamine in the absence of acetic acid, and the process is likely to involve the participation of three atRAL molecules. Our findings suggest that endogenous pdA2E may serve as a sensitizer for yielding singlet oxygen and a singlet oxygen quencher, as well as a by-product of retinal metabolism, and its complete characterization facilitates the understanding of biosynthetic pathways by which adverse RPE lipofuscin constituents form.

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