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Barry S. Winkler; An Hypothesis to Account for the Renewal of Outer Segments in Rod and Cone Photoreceptor Cells: Renewal as a Surrogate Antioxidant. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2008;49(8):3259-3261. doi: 10.1167/iovs.08-1785.
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It is 1 undisputed that glutathione (GSH) is an important cellular antioxidant. Although it is commonly believed that GSH is present in all retinal cells, several publications show that GSH is not immunologically detectable in outer segments of rod and cone photoreceptor cells, but is present in inner retinal cells and the pigment epithelium. Using these intriguing and surprising findings as a starting point, an hypothesis is proposed that the renewal of outer segments serves as a surrogate antioxidant for GSH and that the exceptional vulnerability of photoreceptor cells to certain toxic chemicals is linked to the deficiency in GSH in outer segments as a reductant, a detoxicant, and as an enzymatic cofactor. It is suggested that this deficiency of GSH is not damaging to outer segments under normal conditions, because renewal serves to replace any damaged molecules before they increase to detrimental levels. However, when photoreceptors are stressed, the renewal of outer segments alone is not capable of overcoming the higher rates of oxidizing and detrimental chemical reactions, and the health of the entire photoreceptor cell is at risk. The hypothesis is supported by a consideration of the essential role of the NADPH-dependent retinol reductase, by the different localization within photoreceptor cells of two key metabolic enzymes that are sensitive to oxidation, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase and the sodium-potassium ATPase, and by a consideration of the effects of toxic chemicals that selectively damage photoreceptor cells.
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