Phloretin inhibits glucose transport and reduces inflammation in human retinal pigment epithelial cells

Maria Hytti, Johanna Ruuth, Iiris Kanerva, Niina Bhattarai, Maria L Pedersen, Carsten U Nielsen, Anu Kauppinen

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Abstract

During age-related macular degeneration (AMD), chronic inflammatory processes, possibly fueled by high glucose levels, cause a breakdown of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), leading to vision loss. Phloretin, a natural dihydroxychalcone found in apples, targets several anti-inflammatory signaling pathways and effectively inhibits transporter-mediated glucose uptake. It could potentially prevent inflammation and cell death of RPE cells through either direct regulation of inflammatory signaling pathways or through amelioration of high glucose levels. To test this hypothesis, ARPE-19 cells were incubated with or without phloretin for 1 h before exposure to lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Cell viability and the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-8 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) were measured. Glucose uptake was studied using isotope uptake studies. The nuclear levels of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) were determined alongside the phosphorylation levels of mitogen-activated protein kinases. Phloretin pretreatment reduced the LPS-induced release of IL-6 and IL-8 as well as VEGF. Phloretin increased intracellular levels of reactive oxygen species and nuclear translocation of Nrf2. It also inhibited glucose uptake into ARPE-19 cells and the phosphorylation of Jun-activated kinase (JNK). Subsequent studies revealed that Nrf2, but not the inhibition of glucose uptake or JNK phosphorylation, was the main pathway of phloretin's anti-inflammatory activities. Phloretin was robustly anti-inflammatory in RPE cells and reduced IL-8 secretion via activation of Nrf2 but the evaluation of its potential in the treatment or prevention of AMD requires further studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular and Cellular Biochemistry
ISSN0300-8177
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30. Jun 2022

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© 2022. The Author(s).

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