Sulforaphane promotes ER stress, autophagy and cell death: implications for cataract surgery

Hanruo Liu, Andrew J. O. Smith, Simon S. R. Ball, Yongping Bao, Richard P. Bowater, Ningli Wang, I. Michael Wormstone

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Posterior capsule opacification (PCO) commonly develops following cataract surgery and is a wound-healing response that can ultimately lead to secondary visual loss. Improved management of this problem is required. The isothiocyanate, sulforaphane (SFN) is reported to exert cytoprotective and cytotoxic actions and the latter may be exploited to treat/prevent PCO. SFN concentrations of 10µM and above significantly impaired wound-healing in a human lens capsular bag model. A similar pattern of response was also seen with a human lens cell line, FHL124. SFN treatment promoted increased expression of ER stress genes, which also corresponded with protein expression. Evidence of autophagy was observed in response to SFN as determined by increased LC3-II levels and detection of autophagic vesicles. This response was disrupted by established autophagy inhibitors chloroquine and 3-MA. SFN was found to promote MAPK signaling and inhibition of ERK activation using U0126 prevented SFN induced LC3-II elevation and vesicle formation. SFN also significantly increased levels of reactive oxygen species. Taken together, our findings suggest that SFN is capable of reducing lens cell growth and viability and thus could serve as a putative therapeutic agent for PCO.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553–564
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number5
Early online date12 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Sulforaphane
  • ER stress
  • Lens
  • Posterior capsule opacificatio
  • Autophagy flux

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