Cigarette smoke-related hydroquinone dysregulates MCP-1, VEGF and PEDF expression in retinal pigment epithelium in vitro and in vivo

Marianne Pons, Maria E. Marin-Castaño

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations


Background: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in the elderly population. Debris (termed drusen) below the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) have been recognized as a risk factor for dry AMD and its progression to wet AMD, which is characterized by choroidal neovascularization (CNV). The underlying mechanism of how drusen might elicit CNV remains undefined. Cigarette smoking, oxidative damage to the RPE and inflammation are postulated to be involved in the pathophysiology of the disease. To better understand the cellular mechanism(s) linking oxidative stress and inflammation to AMD, we examined the expression of pro-inflammatory monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and anti-angiogenic pigment epithelial derived factor (PEDF) in RPE from smoker patients with AMD. We also evaluated the effects of hydroquinone (HQ), a major pro-oxidant in cigarette smoke on MCP-1, VEGF and PEDF expression in cultured ARPE-19 cells and RPE/choroids from C57BL/6 mice. Principal Findings: MCP-1, VEGF and PEDF expression was examined by real-time PCR, Western blot, and ELISA. Low levels of MCP-1 protein were detected in RPE from AMD smoker patients relative to controls. Both MCP-1 mRNA and protein were downregulated in ARPE-19 cells and RPE/choroids from C57BL/6 mice after 5 days and 3 weeks of exposure to HQ-induced oxidative injury. VEGF protein expression was increased and PEDF protein expression was decreased in RPE from smoker patients with AMD versus controls resulting in increased VEGF/PEDF ratio. Treatment with HQ for 5 days and 3 weeks increased the VEGF/PEDF ratio in vitro and in vivo. Conclusion: We propose that impaired RPE-derived MCP-1-mediated scavenging macrophages recruitment and phagocytosis might lead to incomplete clearance of proinflammatory debris and infiltration of proangiogenic macrophages which along with increased VEGF/PEDF ratio favoring angiogenesis might promote drusen accumulation and progression to CNV in smoker patients with dry AMD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere16722
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 8 2011


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

Cite this