N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E) and other bisretinoids are components of lipofuscin and accumulate in retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells—these adducts are recognized in the pathogenesis of retinal degeneration. Further, blue light-emitting diode (LED) light (BLL)-induced retinal toxicity plays an important role in retinal degeneration. Here, we demonstrate that low-luminance BLL enhances phototoxicity in A2E-laden RPE cells and rats. RPE cells were subjected to synthetic A2E, and the effects of BLL on activation of apoptotic biomarkers were examined by measuring the levels of cleaved caspase-3. BLL modulates the protein expression of zonula-occludens 1 (ZO-1) and paracellular permeability in A2E-laden RPE cells. Early inflammatory and angiogenic genes were also screened after short-term BLL exposure. In this study, we developed a rat model for A2E treatment with or without BLL exposure for 21 days. BLL exposure caused fundus damage, decreased total retinal thickness, and caused neuron transduction injury in the retina, which were consistent with the in vitro data. We suggest that the synergistic effects of BLL and A2E accumulation in the retina increase the risk of retinal degeneration. These outcomes help elucidate the associations between BLL/A2E and angiogenic/apoptotic mechanisms, as well as furthering therapeutic strategies.
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