Purpose: To determine how the retina uses vitamin A for vision, we studied the flux of oral vitamin A into and out of the swine retina.
Methods: We administered labeled vitamin A to swine daily for 30 days and measured the percent of the labeled vitamin A to native unlabeled vitamin A in the retinal epithelium, neuroretina, plasma, liver, lung, and kidney.
Results: We show that during normal vitamin A homeostasis, the retina rapidly assimilates newly ingested dietary vitamin A, which replaces native vitamin A. Retinal vitamin A is turned over faster than previously thought. Provitamin A carotenoids do not significantly contribute to retinal vitamin A pools when consuming diets adequate in vitamin A.
Conclusions: Fast vitamin A turnover in the retina has direct implications for emerging therapies to prevent major forms of blindness based on controlling the concentrations of retinal vitamin A.