Monomethylfumarate induces γ-globin expression and fetal hemoglobin production in cultured human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) and erythroid cells, and in intact retina.

Wanwisa Promsote, Levi Makala, Biaoru Li, Sylvia B. Smith, Nagendra Singh, Vadivel Ganapathy, Betty S. Pace, Pamela M. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Sickle retinopathy (SR) is a major cause of vision loss in sickle cell disease (SCD). There are no strategies to prevent SR and treatments are extremely limited. The present study evaluated (1) the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell as a hemoglobin producer and novel cellular target for fetal hemoglobin (HbF) induction, and (2) monomethylfumarate (MMF) as an HbF-inducing therapy and abrogator of oxidative stress and inflammation in SCD retina. Human globin gene expression was evaluated by RT-quantitative (q)PCR in the human RPE cell line ARPE-19 and in primary RPE cells isolated from Townes humanized SCD mice. γ-Globin promoter activity was monitored in KU812 stable dual luciferase reporter expressing cells treated with 0 to 1000 μM dimethylfumarate, MMF, or hydroxyurea (HU; positive control) by dual luciferase assay. Reverse transcriptase-qPCR, fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS), immunofluorescence, and Western blot techniques were used to evaluate γ-globin expression and HbF production in primary human erythroid progenitors, ARPE-19, and normal hemoglobin producing (HbAA) and homozygous β(s) mutation (HbSS) RPE that were treated similarly, and in MMF-injected (1000 μM) HbAA and HbSS retinas. Dihydroethidium labeling and nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2), IL-1β, and VEGF expression were also analyzed. Retinal pigment epithelial cells express globin genes and synthesize adult and fetal hemoglobin MMF stimulated γ-globin expression and HbF production in cultured RPE and erythroid cells, and in HbSS mouse retina where it also reduced oxidative stress and inflammation. The production of hemoglobin by RPE suggests the potential involvement of this cell type in the etiology of SR. Monomethylfumarate influences multiple parameters consistent with improved retinal health in SCD and may therefore be of therapeutic potential in SR treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5382-5393
Number of pages12
JournalInvestigative ophthalmology & visual science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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