- Lipids play essential roles in maintaining cell structure and function by modulating membrane fluidity and cell signaling. The fatty acid elongase-4 (ELOVL4) protein, expressed in retina, brain, Meibomian glands, skin, testes and sperm, is an essential enzyme that mediates tissue-specific biosynthesis of both VLC-PUFA and VLC-saturated fatty acids (VLC-SFA). These fatty acids play critical roles in maintaining retina and brain function, neuroprotection, skin permeability barrier maintenance, and sperm function, among other important cellular processes.
- Photoreceptors have high energy demands and a high density of mitochondria that produce ATP through oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) of fuel substrates. Although glucose is the major fuel for CNS brain neurons, in photoreceptors (also CNS), most glucose is not metabolized through OXPHOS but is instead metabolized into lactate by aerobic glycolysis. The major fuel sources for photoreceptor mitochondria remained unclear for almost six decades. Similar to other tissues (like heart and skeletal muscle) with high metabolic rates, photoreceptors were recently found to metabolize fatty acids (palmitate) through OXPHOS.
- Vitamin A aldehyde covalently bound to opsin protein is embedded in a phospholipid-rich membrane that supports photon absorption and phototransduction in photoreceptor cell outer segments. Following absorption of a photon, the 11-cis-retinal chromophore of visual pigment in photoreceptor cells isomerizes to all-trans-retinal. To maintain photosensitivity 11-cis-retinal must be replaced. At the same time, however, all-trans-retinal has to be handled so as to prevent nonspecific aldehyde activity.
- The field of phosphoinositide signaling has expanded significantly in recent years. Phosphoinositides (also known as phosphatidylinositol phosphates or PIPs) are universal signaling molecules that directly interact with membrane proteins or with cytosolic proteins containing domains that directly bind phosphoinositides and are recruited to cell membranes. Through the activities of phosphoinositide kinases and phosphoinositide phosphatases, seven distinct phosphoinositide lipid molecules are formed from the parent molecule, phosphatidylinositol.
- Driven by the energy of a photon, the visual pigments in rod and cone photoreceptor cells isomerize 11-cis-retinal to the all-trans configuration. This photochemical reaction initiates the signal transduction pathway that eventually leads to the transmission of a visual signal to the brain and leaves the opsins insensitive to further light stimulation. For the eye to restore light sensitivity, opsins require recharging with 11-cis-retinal. This trans-cis back conversion is achieved through a series of enzymatic reactions composing the retinoid (visual) cycle.
- Since the publication of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) in 2013, the macular pigment carotenoids lutein (L) and zeaxanthin (Z) have become well known to both the eye care community and the public. It is a fascinating aspect of evolution that primates have repurposed photoprotective pigments and binding proteins from plants and insects to protect and enhance visual acuity. Moreover, utilization of these plant-derived nutrients has been widely embraced for preventing vision loss from age-related macular degeneration.
- Sphingolipids have emerged as bioactive lipids involved in the regulation of many physiological and pathological processes. In the retina, they have been established to participate in numerous processes, such as neuronal survival and death, proliferation and migration of neuronal and vascular cells, inflammation, and neovascularization. Dysregulation of sphingolipids is therefore crucial in the onset and progression of retinal diseases. This review examines the involvement of sphingolipids in retinal physiology and diseases.
- Cholesterol is a quantitatively and biologically significant constituent of all mammalian cell membrane, including those that comprise the retina. Retinal cholesterol homeostasis entails the interplay between de novo synthesis, uptake, intraretinal sterol transport, metabolism, and efflux. Defects in these complex processes are associated with several congenital and age-related disorders of the visual system. Herein, we provide an overview of the following topics: (a) cholesterol synthesis in the neural retina; (b) lipoprotein uptake and intraretinal sterol transport in the neural retina and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE); (c) cholesterol efflux from the neural retina and the RPE; and (d) biology and pathobiology of defects in sterol synthesis and sterol oxidation in the neural retina and the RPE.
- The essential fatty acid DHA (22:6, omega-3 or n-3) is enriched in and required for the membrane biogenesis and function of photoreceptor cells (PRCs), synapses, mitochondria, etc. of the CNS. PRC DHA becomes an acyl chain at the sn-2 of phosphatidylcholine, amounting to more than 50% of the PRC outer segment phospholipids, where phototransduction takes place. Very long chain PUFAs (n-3, ≥ 28 carbons) are at the sn-1 of this phosphatidylcholine molecular species and interact with rhodopsin. PRC shed their tips (DHA-rich membrane disks) daily, which in turn are phagocytized by the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), where DHA is recycled back to PRC inner segments to be used for the biogenesis of new photoreceptor membranes.