Discovery of sterically-hindered phenol compounds with potent cytoprotective activities against ox-LDL-induced retinal pigment epithelial cell death as a potential pharmacotherapy

Date Published:

2021 Nov 26


Late-stage dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or geographic atrophy (GA) is an irreversible blinding condition characterized by degeneration of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the associated photoreceptors. Clinical and genetic evidence supports a role for dysfunctional lipid processing and accumulation of harmful oxidized lipids in the pathogenesis of GA. Using oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL)-induced RPE death assay, we screened and identified sterically-hindered phenol compounds with potent protective activities for RPE. The phenol-containing PPARγ agonist, troglitazone, protected against ox-LDL-induced RPE cell death, whereas other more potent PPARγ agonists did not protect RPE cells. Knockdown of PPARγ did not affect the protective activity of troglitazone in RPE, confirming the protective function is not due to the thiazolidine (TZD) group of troglitazone. Prototypical hindered phenol trolox and its analogs potently protected against ox-LDL-induced RPE cell death whereas potent antioxidants without the phenol group failed to protect RPE. Hindered phenols preserved lysosomal integrity against ox-LDL-induced damage and FITC-labeled trolox was localized to the lysosomes in RPE cells. Analogs of trolox inhibited reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation induced by ox-LDL uptake in a dose-dependent fashion and were effective at sub-micromolar concentrations. Treatment with trolox analog 2,2,5,7,8-pentamethyl-6-chromanol (PMC) significantly induced the expression of the lysosomal protein NPC-1 and reduced intracellular cholesterol level upon ox-LDL uptake. Our data indicate that the lysosomal-localized hindered phenols are uniquely potent in protecting the RPE against the toxic effects of ox-LDL, and may represent a novel pharmacotherapy to preserve the vision in patients with GA.

Last updated on 12/02/2021