Lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation reduces H2O2-induced oxidative damage in human lens epithelial cells

Mol Vis. 2011;17:3180-90. Epub 2011 Dec 7.


Purpose: Epidemiological studies suggest that dietary intake of lutein and zeaxanthin is inversely related to the risk for senile cataract. The objectives of this work were to investigate the mechanisms by which these nutrients provide anti-cataract effects. We evaluated their modulation of oxidative damage in human lens epithelial cells (HLEC) and their interaction with intracellular glutathione (GSH).

Methods: Subconfluent HLEC were pre-incubated with or without 5 µM lutein, zeaxanthin, or α-tocopherol for 48 h and then exposed to 100 µM H(2)O(2) for 1 h. Levels of protein carbonyls in the cells were measured by western-blotting analysis following reaction with 2,4-dinitrophenylhydrazine (DNPH). Levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione (GSH) and oxidized glutathione (GSSG) were measured by an HPLC system. DNA damage was assessed using comet assays. Cell viability was determined by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium (MTS) assay.

Results: In the absence of H(2)O(2), HLEC had very low levels of protein carbonyl and MDA. Supplementation with lutein, zeaxanthin, or α-tocopherol to the unstressed HLEC had no detectable effects on levels of oxidized proteins and lipid in the cells. Exposure of HLEC to H(2)O(2) significantly increased levels of oxidized proteins, lipid peroxidation, and DNA damage. Pre-incubation with lutein, zeaxanthin, or α-tocopherol dramatically reduced the levels of H(2)O(2) -induced protein carbonyl, MDA, and DNA damage in HLEC. The protective effects of lutein, zeaxanthin, and α-tocopherol against protein oxidation, lipid peroxidation, and DNA damage were comparable. Supplementation with lutein, zeaxanthin, or α-tocopherol increased GSH levels and GSH:GSSG ratio, particularly in response to oxidative stress. Depletion of GSH resulted in significant increase in susceptibility to H(2)O(2)-induced cell death. Supplementation with α-tocopherol, but not lutein or zeaxanthin, can partially restore the resistance of GSH-depleted cells to H(2)O(2).

Conclusions: These data indicate that lutein or zeaxanthin supplementation protects lens protein, lipid, and DNA from oxidative damage and improves intracellular redox status upon oxidative stress. The protective effects are comparable to that of α-tocopherol, except that lutein and zeaxanthin cannot compensate for GSH depletion. The data imply that sufficient intake of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk for senile cataract via protecting the lens from oxidative damage.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Western
  • Cataract / prevention & control*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / adverse effects
  • Lens, Crystalline / cytology
  • Lens, Crystalline / drug effects*
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Lutein / pharmacology*
  • Malondialdehyde / analysis
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Protein Carbonylation / drug effects
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology*
  • Zeaxanthins
  • alpha-Tocopherol / pharmacology*


  • Xanthophylls
  • Zeaxanthins
  • Malondialdehyde
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Glutathione
  • alpha-Tocopherol
  • Lutein