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Received April 6, 2017; Revision received May 15, 2017
The effect of superoxide radicals on melanin destruction and degradation of melanosomes isolated from cells of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the human eye was studied. We found that potassium superoxide causes destruction of melanin in melanosomes of human and bovine RPE, as well as destruction of melanin from the ink bag of squid, with the formation of fluorescent decay products having an emission maximum at 520-525 nm. The initial kinetics of the accumulation of the fluorescent decay products is linear. Superoxide radicals lead simultaneously to a decrease in the number of melanosomes and to a decrease in concentration of paramagnetic centers in them. Complete degradation of melanosomes leads to the formation of a transparent solution containing dissolved proteins and melanin degradation products that do not exhibit paramagnetic properties. To completely degrade one melanosome of human RPE, 650 ± 100 fmol of superoxide are sufficient. The concentration of paramagnetic centers in a melanolipofuscin granule of human RPE is on average 32.5 ± 10.4% (p < 0.05, 150 eyes) lower than in a melanosome, which indicates melanin undergoing a destruction process in these granules. RPE cells also contain intermediate granules that have an EPR signal with a lower intensity than that of melanolipofuscin granules, but higher than that of lipofuscin granules. This signal is due to the presence of residual melanin in these granules. Irradiation of a mixture of melanosomes with lipofuscin granules with blue light (450 nm), in contrast to irradiation of only melanosomes, results in the appearance of fluorescent melanin degradation products. We suggest that one of the main mechanisms of age-related decrease in melanin concentration in human RPE cells is its destruction in melanolipofuscin granules under the action of superoxide radicals formed during photoinduced oxygen reduction by lipofuscin fluorophores.
KEY WORDS: retinal pigment epithelium, melanosomes, superoxide, melanolipofuscin, lipofuscin, destruction, electron paramagnetic resonance