Nrf2 protects photoreceptor cells from photo-oxidative stress induced by blue light

Wan Ju Chen, Caiying Wu, Zhenhua Xu, Yoshiki Kuse, Hideaki Hara, Elia J. Duh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Oxidative stress plays a key role in age-related macular degeneration and hereditary retinal degenerations. Light damage in rodents has been used extensively to model oxidative stress-induced photoreceptor degeneration, and photo-oxidative injury from blue light is particularly damaging to photoreceptors. The endogenous factors protecting photoreceptors from oxidative stress, including photo-oxidative stress, are continuing to be elucidated. In this study, we evaluated the effect of blue light exposure on photoreceptors and its relationship to Nrf2 using cultured murine photoreceptor (661W) cells. 661W cells were exposed to blue light at 2500 lux. Exposure to blue light for 6–24 h resulted in a significant increase in intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) and death of 661W cells in a time-dependent fashion. Blue light exposure resulted in activation of Nrf2, as indicated by an increase in nuclear translocation of Nrf2. This was associated with a significant induction of expression of Nrf2 as well as an array of Nrf2 target genes, including antioxidant genes, as indicated by quantitative reverse transcription PCR (qRT-PCR). In order to determine the functional role of Nrf2, siRNA-mediated knockdown studies were performed. Nrf2-knockdown in 661W cells resulted in significant exacerbation of blue light-induced reactive oxygen species levels as well as cell death. Taken together, these findings indicate that Nrf2 is an important endogenous protective factor against oxidative stress in photoreceptor cells. This suggests that drugs targeting Nrf2 could be considered as a neuroprotective strategy for photoreceptors in AMD and other retinal conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-158
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental eye research
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Neuroprotection
  • Nrf2
  • Oxidative stress
  • Photoreceptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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