α-Tocopherol is an effective Phase II enzyme inducer: protective effects on acrolein-induced oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction in human retinal pigment epithelial cells

Zhihui Feng, Zhongbo Liu, Xuesen Li, Haiqun Jia, Lijuan Sun, Chuan Tian, Lihong Jia, Jiankang Liu
Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2010, 21 (12): 1222-31
Vitamin E has long been identified as a major lipid-soluble chain-breaking antioxidant in mammals. α-Tocopherol is a vitamin E component and the major form in the human body. We propose that, besides its direct chain-breaking antioxidant activity, α-tocopherol may exert an indirect antioxidant activity by enhancing the cell's antioxidant system as a Phase II enzyme inducer. We investigated α-tocopherol's inducing effect on Phase II enzymes and its protective effect on acrolein-induced toxicity in a human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell line, ARPE-19. Acrolein, a major component of cigarette smoke and also a product of lipid peroxidation, at 75 μmol/L over 24 h, caused significant loss of ARPE-19 cell viability, increased oxidative damage, decreased antioxidant defense, inactivation of the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway, and mitochondrial dysfunction. ARPE-19 cells have been used as a model of smoking- and age-related macular degeneration. Pretreatment with α-tocopherol activated the Keap1/Nrf2 pathway by increasing Nrf2 expression and inducing its translocation to the nucleus. Consequently, the expression and/or activity of the following Phase II enzymes increased: glutamate cysteine ligase, NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1, heme-oxygenase 1, glutathione S-transferase and superoxide dismutase; total antioxidant capacity and glutathione also increased. This antioxidant defense enhancement protected ARPE-19 cells from an acrolein-induced decrease in cell viability, lowered reactive oxygen species and protein oxidation levels, and improved mitochondrial function. These results suggest that α-tocopherol protects ARPE-19 cells from acrolein-induced cellular toxicity, not only as a chain-breaking antioxidant, but also as a Phase II enzyme inducer.

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