Lipid peroxides are generated by oxidative stress in cells, and contribute to ageing and neurodegenerative disease. The eye is at special risk for lipid peroxidation because photoreceptors possess amplified sensory membranes rich in peroxidation-susceptible polyunsaturated fatty acids. Light-induced lipid peroxidation in the retina contributes to retinal degeneration, and lipid peroxidation has been implicated in the progression of age-associated ocular diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Here, we show that exposing Drosophila melanogaster to strong blue light induces oxidative stress including lipid peroxidation that results in retinal degeneration. Surprisingly, very young flies are resilient to this acute light stress, suggesting they possess endogenous neuroprotective mechanisms. While lipophilic antioxidants partially suppressed blue light-induced retinal degeneration in older flies, we find that overexpression of cytochrome b5 (Cyt-b5) completely suppressed both blue light-induced lipid peroxidation and retinal degeneration. Our data identify Cyt-b5 as a neuroprotective factor that targets light-induced oxidative damage, particularly lipid peroxidation. Cyt-b5 may function via supporting antioxidant recycling, thereby providing a strategy to prevent oxidative stress in ageing photoreceptors that would be synergistic with dietary antioxidant supplementation.


The publisher's version is available at www.doi.org/10.1038/s41514-017-0019-6

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