Cell survival matters: docosahexaenoic acid signaling, neuroprotection and photoreceptors

Trends Neurosci. 2006 May;29(5):263-71. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2006.03.005. Epub 2006 Apr 3.


Recent data have provided important clues about the molecular mechanisms underlying certain retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration. Photoreceptor cell degeneration is a feature common to these diseases, and the death of these cells in many instances seems to involve the closely associated retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. Under normal circumstances, both cell types are subject to potentially damaging stimuli (e.g. sunlight and high oxygen tension). However, the mechanism or mechanisms by which homeostasis is maintained in this part of the eye, which is crucial for sight, are an unsolved riddle. The omega-3 fatty acid family member docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is enriched in these cells, is the precursor of neuroprotectin D1 (NPD1). NPD1 inhibits oxidative-stress-mediated proinflammatory gene induction and apoptosis, and consequently promotes RPE cell survival. This enhanced understanding of the molecular basis of endogenous anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective signaling in the RPE presents an opportunity for the development of therapies for retinal degenerative diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Photoreceptor Cells / cytology
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism*
  • Retinal Degeneration / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction* / physiology


  • protectin D1
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids