Photobiomodulation Mediates Neuroprotection against Blue Light Induced Retinal Photoreceptor Degeneration

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Mar 30;21(7):2370. doi: 10.3390/ijms21072370.


Potent neuroprotective effects of photobiomodulation with 670 nm red light (RL) have been demonstrated in several models of retinal disease. RL improves mitochondrial metabolism, reduces retinal inflammation and oxidative cell stress, showing its ability to enhance visual function. However, the current knowledge is limited to the main hypothesis that the respiratory chain complex IV, cytochrome c oxidase, serves as the primary target of RL. Here, we demonstrate a comprehensive cellular, molecular, and functional characterization of neuroprotective effects of 670 nm RL and 810 nm near-infrared light (NIRL) on blue light damaged murine primary photoreceptors. We show that respiratory chain complexes I and II are additional PBM targets, besides complex IV, leading to enhanced mitochondrial energy metabolism. Accordingly, our study identified mitochondria related RL- and NIRL-triggered defense mechanisms promoting photoreceptor neuroprotection. The observed improvement of mitochondrial and extramitochondrial respiration in both inner and outer segments is linked with reduced oxidative stress including its cellular consequences and reduced mitochondria-induced apoptosis. Analysis of regulatory mechanisms using gene expression analysis identified upregulation α-crystallins that indicate enhanced production of proteins with protective functions that point to the rescued mitochondrial function. The results support the hypothesis that energy metabolism is a major target for retinal light therapy.

Keywords: low-level laser therapy; near-infrared light; neuroprotection; oxidative stress; photoreceptor survival; red light; respiratory chain complexes; α-Crystallins.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Infrared Rays / therapeutic use
  • Low-Level Light Therapy* / methods
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neuroprotection / radiation effects*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / metabolism
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / pathology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / radiation effects*
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy*
  • Up-Regulation / radiation effects
  • alpha-Crystallins / genetics


  • alpha-Crystallins

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