Dr. Subczynski lab contributes chapter to eye vision book

Nov. 25, 2013 College News - W. Karol Subczynski, PhD, DSc, Professor of Biophysics, Justyna Widomska, PhD, his postdoctoral fellow, and Anna Wisniewska-Becker, PhD, a former graduate student, contributed a vision science chapter to the recently published book, Carotenoids and Retinal Disease, published by CRC Press. The chapter is titled, Xanthophyll-membrane Interactions: Implications for Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

The Subczynski laboratory contribution reflects years of innovative research on the role of macular carotenoids (xanthophylls) in eye health. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is associated with low levels of xanthophylls. The laboratory focuses on xanthophyll-membrane interactions, specifically, on their distribution between domains in membranes of photoreceptor outer segments and their ability to protect against AMD.

Dr. Subczynski demonstrated in experiments that co-localization of xanthophylls, polyunsaturated phospholipids and rhodopsin in the same membrane domain significantly enhances their effectiveness as a protector, especially when the local concentration of xanthophylls in the membrane is not high. This is possible because of the domain structure of the photoreceptor outer segment membrane and the ability of these domains to select and/or exclude specific classes of lipids and proteins.

Thus, the membrane domain structure plays a significant role in the protection of retina membranes against AMD. Dr. Subczynski believes that this function of membrane domains, namely the co-localization of vulnerable molecules and processes with protective molecules and processes, should be added to the already accepted domain functions, such as signal transduction, lipid sorting, and protein trafficking/recycling.

The book will aid researchers and clinicians from several disciplines in creating interdisciplinary collaborations, and preventing and treating retinal disease.

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