Supplementation with 5-formyltetrahydrofolate alleviates ultraviolet B-inflicted oxidative damage in folate-deficient zebrafish

Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2019 Oct 30;182:109380. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2019.109380. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Ultraviolet (UV) is an omnipresent environmental carcinogen transmitted by sunlight. Excessive UV irradiation has been correlated to an increased risk of skin cancers. UVB, the most mutagenic component among the three UV constituents, causes damage mainly through inducing DNA damage and oxidative stress. Therefore, strategies or nutrients that strengthen an individual's resistance to UV-inflicted harmful effects shall be beneficial. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin essential for nucleotides biosynthesis, and also a strong biological antioxidant, hence a micronutrient with potential of modulating individual's vulnerability to UV exposure. In this study, we investigated the impact of folate status on UV sensitivity and the protective activity of folate supplementation using a zebrafish model. Elevated reactive oxygen species (ROS) level and morphological injury were observed in the larvae exposed to UVB, which were readily rescued by supplementing with folic acid, 5-formyltetrahydrofolate (5-CHO-THF) and N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC). The UVB-inflicted abnormalities and mortality were worsened in Tg(hsp:EGFP-γGH) larvae displaying folate deficiency. Intriguingly, only supplementation with 5-CHO-THF, as opposed to folic acid, offered significant and consistent protection against UVB-inflicted oxidative damage in the folate-deficient larvae. We concluded that the intrinsic folate status correlates with the vulnerability to UVB-induced damage in zebrafish larvae. In addition, 5-CHO-THF surpassed both folic acid and NAC in preventing UVB-inflicted oxidative stress and injury in our current experimental zebrafish model.

Keywords: 5-Formyltetrahydrofolate; Folate; UV protection; UV-inflicted damage; Zebrafish.

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / metabolism
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / prevention & control*
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Larva / metabolism
  • Leucovorin / pharmacology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Oxidative Stress / radiation effects
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin B Complex / pharmacology*
  • Zebrafish / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Leucovorin
  • Acetylcysteine