Dietary spirulina supplementation protects visual function from photostress by suppressing retinal neurodegeneration in mice

Tomohiro Okamoto, Hirohiko Kawashima, Hideto Osada, Eriko Toda, Kohei Homma, Norihiro Nagai, Yasuyuki Imai, Kazuo Tsubota, Yoko Ozawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: We investigated whether daily consumption of Spirulina, an antioxidant generating cyanobacterial nutritional supplement, would suppress photostress-induced retinal damage and prevent vision loss in mice. Methods: Six-week-old male BALB/cAJcl mice were allowed constant access to either a standard or Spirulina-supplemented diet (20% Spirulina) that included the antioxidants, b-carotene and zeaxanthin, and proteins for 4 weeks. Following dark adaptation, mice were exposed to 3000-lux white light for 1 hour and returned to their cages. Visual function was analyzed by electroretinogram, and retinal histology by hematoxylin and eosin staining, terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated, deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay, and immunohistochem-istry. Retinal expression of proteins, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and mRNAs were measured using immunoblot analysis, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), 20,70-dichlorofluorescein-diacetate, or ROS Brite 700 Dyes, and real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, respectively. Results: Light-induced visual function impairment was suppressed by constant Spirulina intake. Thinning of the photoreceptor layer and outer segments, photoreceptor cell death, decreased rhodopsin protein, and induction of glial fibrillary acidic protein were ameliorated in the Spirulina-intake group. Increased retinal ROS levels after light exposure were reduced by Spirulina supplementation. Light-induced superoxide dismutase 2 and heme oxygenase-1 mRNAs in the retina, and Nrf2 activation in the photoreceptor cells, were preserved with Spirulina supplementation, despite reduced ROS levels, suggesting two pathways for suppressing ROS, scavenging and induction of endogenous antioxidative enzymes. Light-induced MCP-1 retinal mRNA and proteins were also suppressed by Spirulina. Conclusions: Spirulina ingestion protected retinal photoreceptors from photostress in the retina. Translational Relevance: Spirulina has potential as a nutrient supplement to prevent vision loss related to oxidative damage in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20
JournalTranslational Vision Science and Technology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Nov


  • Antioxidative enzyme
  • Light exposure
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Oxidative stress
  • Photoreceptor
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Ophthalmology


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