Identification of StARD3 as a lutein-binding protein in the macula of the primate retina

Biochemistry. 2011 Apr 5;50(13):2541-9. doi: 10.1021/bi101906y. Epub 2011 Mar 4.


Lutein, zeaxanthin, and their metabolites are the xanthophyll carotenoids that form the macular pigment of the human retina. Epidemiological evidence suggests that high levels of these carotenoids in the diet, serum, and macula are associated with a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and the AREDS2 study is prospectively testing this hypothesis. Understanding the biochemical mechanisms underlying the selective uptakes of lutein and zeaxanthin into the human macula may provide important insights into the physiology of the human macula in health and disease. GSTP1 is the macular zeaxanthin-binding protein, but the identity of the human macular lutein-binding protein has remained elusive. Prior identification of the silkworm lutein-binding protein (CBP) as a member of the steroidogenic acute regulatory domain (StARD) protein family and selective labeling of monkey photoreceptor inner segments with an anti-CBP antibody provided an important clue for identifying the primate retina lutein-binding protein. The homology of CBP with all 15 human StARD proteins was analyzed using database searches, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry, and we here provide evidence to identify StARD3 (also known as MLN64) as a human retinal lutein-binding protein. Antibody to StARD3, N-62 StAR, localizes to all neurons of monkey macular retina and especially cone inner segments and axons, but does not colocalize with the Müller cell marker, glutamine synthetase. Further, recombinant StARD3 selectively binds lutein with high affinity (K(D) = 0.45 μM) when assessed by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) binding assays. Our results demonstrate previously unrecognized, specific interactions of StARD3 with lutein and provide novel avenues for exploring its roles in human macular physiology and disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / chemistry
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Databases, Protein
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Direct
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Lutein / metabolism*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Macula Lutea / cytology
  • Macula Lutea / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / chemistry
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Surface Plasmon Resonance


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • STARD3 protein, human
  • Lutein