Carotenoid supplementation can improve human visual performance, but there is still no validated rodent model to test their effects on visual function in laboratory animals. We recently showed that mice deficient in β-carotene oxygenase 2 (BCO2) and/or β-carotene oxygenase 1 (BCO1) enzymes can accumulate carotenoids in their retinas, allowing us to investigate the effects of carotenoids on the visual performance of mice. Using OptoMotry, a device to measure visual function in rodents, we examined the effect of zeaxanthin, lutein, and β-carotene on visual performance of various BCO knockout mice. We then transgenically expressed the human zeaxanthin-binding protein GSTP1 (hGSTP1) in the rods of bco2-/- mice to examine if delivering more zeaxanthin to retina will improve their visual function further. The visual performance of bco2-/- mice fed with zeaxanthin or lutein was significantly improved relative to control mice fed with placebo beadlets. β-Carotene had no significant effect in bco2-/- mice but modestly improved cone visual function of bco1-/- mice. Expression of hGSTP1 in the rods of bco2-/-mice resulted in a 40% increase of retinal zeaxanthin and further improvement of visual performance. This work demonstrates that these "macular pigment mice" may serve as animal models to study carotenoid function in the retina.
Keywords: Carotenoid; Contrast sensitivity; Lutein; Spatial frequency; Visual performance; Zeaxanthin.
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