Protection by dimethylthiourea against retinal light damage in rats

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1992 Apr;33(5):1599-609.


The protective effect of dimethylthiourea (DMTU) against retinal light damage was determined in albino rats reared in darkness or in weak cyclic light. Rats maintained under these conditions were treated with DMTU at different concentrations and dosing schedules and then exposed for various times to intense visible light, either intermittently (1 hr light and 2 hr dark) or continuously. The extent of retinal light damage was determined 2 weeks after light exposure by comparing rhodopsin levels in experimental rats with those in unexposed control animals. To determine the effect of DMTU on rod outer segment (ROS) membrane fatty acids, ROS were isolated immediately after intermittent light exposure, and fatty acid compositions were measured. The time course for DMTU uptake and its distribution in serum, retina, and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)/choroid complex was determined in other rats not exposed to intense light. After intraperitoneal injection of the drug (500 mg/kg body weight), DMTU appeared rapidly in the serum, retina, and the RPE and choroid. In the ocular tissues, it was distributed 70-80% in the retina and 20-30% in the RPE and choroid. This antioxidant appears to have a long half-life because it was present in these same tissues 72 hr after a second intraperitoneal injection. For rats reared in the weak cyclic light environment, DMTU (two injections) provided complete protection against rhodopsin loss after intense light exposures of up to 16 hr. Only 15% rhodopsin loss was found in cyclic-light DMTU-treated rats after 24 hr of intermittent or continuous light. For rats reared in darkness, DMTU treatment resulted in a rhodopsin loss of less than 20% after 8-16 hr of continuous light and approximately 40% after similar exposure to intermittent light. Irrespective of the type of light exposure, rhodopsin loss in the dark-reared DMTU-treated rats was nearly identical to that found in uninjected cyclic light-reared animals. In rats from both light-rearing environments, DMTU treatment prevented the light-induced loss of docosahexaenoic acid from ROS membranes. As measured by rhodopsin levels 2 weeks later, DMTU was most effective when given as two doses administered 24 hr before and just before intense light exposure. As a single dose given during continuous light exposure, DMTU protected cyclic light-reared rats for at least 4 hr after the start of exposure but was ineffective in dark-reared animals if injected 1 hr after the start of light. It was also ineffective in both types of rats when given after light exposure.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choroid / metabolism
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Dark Adaptation
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Retina / drug effects
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Retinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Retinal Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / metabolism
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / pathology
  • Thiourea / analogs & derivatives*
  • Thiourea / pharmacokinetics
  • Thiourea / therapeutic use


  • Fatty Acids
  • 1,3-dimethylthiourea
  • Rhodopsin
  • Thiourea