Riboflavin (RF) is a normal component of the eye lens which triggers a strong photosensitizing activity when exposed to light. Upon irradiation with short wavelength radiations below 400 nm, RF-photosensitized damage may occur. However, vitamin C is present at high concentrations in the normal lens and plays an important role in inhibiting these photosensitization processes. An in vitro simple model was used with the objective of understanding better the relationships between vitamin C and oxygen concentrations on the mechanisms of RF-mediated photodegradation of tryptophan (Trp), a target particularly sensitive to photo-oxidation. Under nitrogen, the RF decomposition reached its maximal value, and vitamin C and Trp photo-oxidation was negligible. When increasing oxygen pressure, RF photodegradation dropped and vitamin C photo-oxidation strongly increased and was maximal at 100% O2. RF-induced photodegradation of Trp first increased with oxygen concentration, up to 40 μM O2, and then decreased. RF and Trp degradation were significantly protected by vitamin C so that no more than 20% of the substrates concentration were oxidized in the presence of vitamin C higher than 0.8 mM. From our results we conclude that in the specific conditions of the normal lens, the high vitamin C concentration (2 mM) is compatible with the UVA radiation hazard, despite the presence of RF. However, if lenticular vitamin C decreases below 0.8 mM, photodegradation of RF may occur and Trp may therefore be photo-oxidized by a Type-I mechanism.
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Vol. 72 • No. 6