Alterations in retinal rod outer segment fatty acids and light-damage susceptibility in P23H rats

Mol Vis. 2002 Sep 5:8:333-40.


Purpose: To determine whether dietary-induced alterations in the long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid content of retinal rod outer segments (ROS) of P23H rats, a transgenic model of retinitis pigmentosa (RP), prolongs photoreceptor cell life.

Methods: Heterozygous P23H and normal Sprague-Dawley rats were fed a standard house diet or a diet deficient in 18:3n-3. Diet-deficient rats were given supplements of either linseed oil (high in 18:3n-3) or fish oil (high in 20:5n-3). ROS fatty acid profiles and serum fatty acids were determined by gas chromatography. Serum cholesterol was evaluated by HPLC. Retinal damage was assessed by measuring whole-retina rhodopsin and DNA content before and after exposure to high-intensity light.

Results: The retinas of 60 day old, cyclic-light-reared, P23H transgenic rats contained 50% of the rhodopsin and 75% of the DNA content found in control Sprague-Dawley rats. Eight hours of intense light had little effect on the rhodopsin or DNA content in the Sprague-Dawley rats, but resulted in rhodopsin and DNA losses of nearly 70%, compared to controls, in P23H animals fed either a standard or an 18:3n-3-deficient diet. Supplementation with linseed oil resulted in small, statistically insignificant, increases in the rhodopsin and DNA losses, which occurred after exposure to intense light, in P23H transgenics. In unexposed animals, supplementation with linseed oil or fish oil had no effect on either rhodopsin or DNA levels in P23H rats or in Sprague-Dawley controls. On standard diet, the ROS 22:6n-3 (DHA) content in P23H rats was lower than that of control animals. DHA decreased in both groups when an 18:3-deficient diet was fed. The reduction was greater in controls than in P23H transgenics, but a concomitant increase in 22:5n-6 was nearly the same in both groups. Supplementation of the 18:3-deficient diet with linseed oil or fish oil in P23H rats resulted in a ROS fatty acid profile comparable to that of Sprague-Dawley rats raised on a standard diet. Serum DHA and 22:5n-6 levels were low in both groups. No significant differences in serum cholesterol were observed as a function of genotype or diet.

Conclusions: Heterozygous P23H rats are capable of forming ROS DHA from dietary fatty acid precursors found in linseed oil (18:3n-3) or fish oil (20:5n-3). Under all dietary conditions, P23H transgenics are highly susceptible to retinal damage from exposure to intense light. Although levels of DHA in the ROS of P23H rats could be altered by dietary manipulation, only small changes in photoreceptor cell survival, as measured by whole-retina rhodopsin and DNA content, were observed. The lower-than-normal levels of ROS DHA may reflect an adaptive, possibly protective, mechanism in the P23H transgenic rat model of RP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated / administration & dosage
  • Fatty Acids / blood
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism*
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / etiology
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Radiation Injuries, Experimental / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Retina / pathology
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / etiology
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / metabolism*
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa / pathology
  • Rhodopsin / genetics
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / metabolism*
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / radiation effects*


  • Dietary Fats, Unsaturated
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • DNA
  • Rhodopsin
  • Cholesterol