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Concept: Carotenoid


Tardigrades are microscopic aquatic animals with remarkable abilities to withstand harsh physical conditions such as dehydration or exposure to harmful highly energetic radiation. The mechanisms responsible for such robustness are presently little known, but protection against oxidative stresses is thought to play a role. Despite the fact that many tardigrade species are variously pigmented, scarce information is available about this characteristic. By applying Raman micro-spectroscopy on living specimens, pigments in the tardigrade Echiniscus blumi are identified as carotenoids, and their distribution within the animal body is visualized. The dietary origin of these pigments is demonstrated, as well as their presence in the eggs and in eye-spots of these animals, together with their absence in the outer layer of the animal (i.e., cuticle and epidermis). Using in-vivo semi-quantitative Raman micro-spectroscopy, a decrease in carotenoid content is detected after inducing oxidative stress, demonstrating that this approach can be used for studying the role of carotenoids in oxidative stress-related processes in tardigrades. This approach could be thus used in further investigations to test several hypotheses concerning the function of these carotenoids in tardigrades as photo-protective pigments against ionizing radiations or as antioxidants defending these organisms against the oxidative stress occurring during desiccation processes.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Antioxidant, Arthropod, Oxidative stress, In vivo, Carotenoid, Lutein, Tardigrade


The dramatic rise in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers over the past decade has raised concerns about potentially deleterious health effects of increased “screen time” (ST) and associated short-wavelength (blue) light exposure. We determined baseline associations and effects of 6 months' supplementation with the macular carotenoids (MC) lutein, zeaxanthin, and mesozeaxanthin on the blue-absorbing macular pigment (MP) and measures of sleep quality, visual performance, and physical indicators of excessive ST. Forty-eight healthy young adults with at least 6 h of daily near-field ST exposure participated in this placebo-controlled trial. Visual performance measures included contrast sensitivity, critical flicker fusion, disability glare, and photostress recovery. Physical indicators of excessive screen time and sleep quality were assessed via questionnaire. MP optical density (MPOD) was assessed via heterochromatic flicker photometry. At baseline, MPOD was correlated significantly with all visual performance measures (p < 0.05 for all). MC supplementation (24 mg daily) yielded significant improvement in MPOD, overall sleep quality, headache frequency, eye strain, eye fatigue, and all visual performance measures, versus placebo (p < 0.05 for all). Increased MPOD significantly improves visual performance and, in turn, improves several undesirable physical outcomes associated with excessive ST. The improvement in sleep quality was not directly related to increases in MPOD, and may be due to systemic reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Antioxidant, Carotenoid, Laptop, Zeaxanthin, Lutein, Xanthophyll, Shutter speed


Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is the third most widely consumed plant food by humans. Its tubers are rich in starch and vitamin C, but have low or null levels of essential nutrients such as provitamin A and vitamin E. Transformation of potato with a bacterial mini-pathway for β-carotene in a tuber-specific manner results in a “golden” potato (GP) tuber phenotype resulting from accumulation of provitamin A carotenoids (α- and β-carotene) and xanthophylls. Here, we investigated the bioaccessibility of carotenoids and vitamin E as α-tocopherol (αTC) in boiled wild type and golden tubers using in vitro digestion. Golden tubers contained up to 91 μg provitamin A carotenes (PAC)/g D, increased levels of xanthophylls, phytoene and phytofluene, as well as up to 78 μg vitamin E/g DW. Cubes from wild type and GP tubers were boiled and subjected to simulated digestion to estimate bioaccessibility of carotenoids and αTC. Retention in boiled GPs exceeded 80% for β-carotene (βC), α-carotene (αC), lutein, phytoene ± and αTC, but less than 50% for phytofluene. The efficiency of partitioning of total βC, αC, E-lutein, phytoene, phytofluene and αTC in the mixed micelle fraction during small intestinal digestion was influenced by genotype, tuber content and hydrophobicity. Apical uptake of the compounds that partitioned in mixed micelles by monolayers of human intestinal Caco-2 cells during incubation for 4h was 14-20% for provitamin A and xanthophylls, 43-45% for phytoene, 23-27% for phytofluene, and 53% for αTC. These results suggest that a 150 g serving of boiled golden potatoes has the potential to contribute 42% and 23% of the daily requirement of retinol activity equivalents (RAE), as well as 34 and 17% of the daily vitamin E requirement for children and women of reproductive age, respectively.

Concepts: Antioxidant, Vitamin, Carotenoid, Vitamin C, Solanum, Potato, Carotene, Vitamin A


The eye is a major sensory organ that requires special care for a healthy and productive lifestyle. Numerous studies have identified lutein and zeaxanthin to be essential components for eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoid pigments that impart yellow or orange color to various common foods such as cantaloupe, pasta, corn, carrots, orange/yellow peppers, fish, salmon and eggs. Their role in human health, in particular the health of the eye, is well established from epidemiological, clinical and interventional studies. They constitute the main pigments found in the yellow spot of the human retina which protect the macula from damage by blue light, improve visual acuity and scavenge harmful reactive oxygen species. They have also been linked with reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Research over the past decade has focused on the development of carotenoid-rich foods to boost their intake especially in the elderly population. The aim of this article is to review recent scientific evidences supporting the benefits of lutein and zexanthin in preventing the onset of two major age-related eye diseases with diets rich in these carotenoids. The review also lists major dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin and refers to newly developed foods, daily intake, bioavailability and physiological effects in relation to eye health. Examples of the newly developed high-lutein functional foods are also underlined.

Concepts: Nutrition, Antioxidant, Retina, Eye, Carotenoid, Zeaxanthin, Macular degeneration, Lutein


Purpose. A large body of research has linked macular lutein and zeaxanthin to reduced risk of degenerative eye disease. The earliest published hypothesis for the role of the pigments was not based on chronic protection but immediate function. Recent data on macular pigment (MP) have shown that screening the foveal cones from short-wave light does, in fact, result in improvements in photostress recovery (PR), glare disability (GD) and chromatic contrast (CC). This study examined those relations on a larger sample. Methods. 150 young healthy subjects were assessed. Plasma samples were obtained from 100 subjects for HPLC quantification of serum xanthophylls. MP density was measured using customized heterochromatic flicker photometery. GD, PR and CC were measured in Maxwellian view using a broadband xenon light source. GD was measured by increasing the intensity of an annulus until it veiled a central target. PR was measured as the time necessary to regain sight of a central target after a 5 second exposure to an intense bleaching light. CC was measured as the amount of light necessary in a 460 nm background to lose sight of a central target. Results. MP density was significantly related to serum lutein and zeaxanthin combined (r = 0.31, p = 0.002), GD (r = 0.24, p = 0.0015), PR (r = -0.18, p = 0.01), and CC (r = 0.46, p = 0.00005). Conclusions. These results confirm earlier reports of a significant relation between variation in macular pigment optical density and immediate effects on visual function. As with many species, intra-ocular yellow filters in humans appear to improve many aspects of the visual stimulus.

Concepts: Optics, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Carotenoid, Zeaxanthin, Macular degeneration, Lutein, Xanthophyll


Chromoplasts are special organelles that possess superior ability to synthesize and store massive amounts of carotenoids. They are responsible for the distinctive colors found in fruits, flowers, and roots. Chromoplasts exhibit various morphologies and are derived from either pre-existing chloroplasts or other non-photosynthetic plastids such as proplastids, leucoplasts or amyloplasts. While little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying chromoplast biogenesis, research progress along with proteomics study of chromoplast proteomes signifies various processes and factors improtant for chromoplast differentiaton and development. Chromoplasts act as a metabolic sink that enables great biosynthesis and high storage capacity of carotenoids. The formation of chromoplasts enhances carotenoid metabolic sink strength and controls carotenoid accumulation in plants. The objective of this review is to provide an integrated view on our understanding of chromoplast biogenesis and carotenoid accumulation in plants.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Plastid, Carotenoid, Organelles, Chromoplast, Leucoplast, Amyloplast, Elaioplast


We investigated the feasibility of rapid, nondestructive assay of carotenoid-to-chlorophyll (Car/Chl) ratio and total carotenoids (Car) in cell suspensions of the carotenogenic chlorophyte Haematococcus pluvialis Flotow under stressful conditions. Whole-cell spectra are characterized by variable nonlinear contributions of Car and chlorophylls (Chl), with a strong influence of Car packaging and sieve effect inherent to stressed H. pluvialis cells. Nevertheless, nondestructive assay of Car/Chl in the range of 0.55-31.2 (Car content up to 188 mg L(-1); 5.4 % of the cell dry weight) turned to be achievable with a simple spectrophotometer lacking an integrating sphere upon deposition of the cells on glass fiber filters. The scattering-corrected optical density (OD) in the blue-green region of the whole-cell spectrum, normalized to that in the red maximum of Chl absorption (OD(500)/OD(678)), was tightly related (r (2) = 0.96) with the Car/Chl ratio found in extracts. Some features such as the amplitude and position of the minimum of the normalized first-derivative OD whole-cell spectra also exhibited a strong (r (2) > 0.90) nonlinear correlation with Car/Chl. These spectral indices were also tightly related with Car, but the slope of the relationship varied with the stressor intensity. The importance of calibration over the widest possible range of pigment contents and a correct choice of biomass load per filter are emphasized. The advantages and limitations of nondestructive monitoring of carotenogenesis in H. pluvialis are discussed in view of its possible application in optical sensors for laboratory cultivation and mass production systems of the algae.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carotenoid, Correlation and dependence, Absorption, Spectrum, Maxima and minima, Haematococcus pluvialis


Emerging evidence indicates that carotenoids may have particular roles in infant nutrition and development, yet data on the profile and bioavailability of carotenoids from human milk remain sparse. Milk was longitudinally collected at 2, 4, 13, and 26 weeks postpartum from twenty mothers each in China, Mexico, and the USA in the Global Exploration of Human Milk Study (n = 60 donors, n = 240 samples). Maternal and neonatal plasma was analyzed for carotenoids from the USA cohort at 4 weeks postpartum. Carotenoids were analyzed by HPLC and total lipids by Creamatocrit. Across all countries and lactation stages, the top four carotenoids were lutein (median 114.4 nmol/L), β-carotene (49.4 nmol/L), β-cryptoxanthin (33.8 nmol/L), and lycopene (33.7 nmol/L). Non-provitamin A carotenoids (nmol/L) and total lipids (g/L) decreased (p<0.05) with increasing lactation stage, except the provitamin A carotenoids α- and β-cryptoxanthin and β-carotene did not significantly change (p>0.05) with lactation stage. Total carotenoid content and lutein content were greatest from China, yet lycopene was lowest from China (p<0.0001). Lutein, β-cryptoxanthin, and β-carotene, and lycopene concentrations in milk were significantly correlated to maternal plasma and neonatal plasma concentrations (p<0.05), with the exception that lycopene was not significantly associated between human milk and neonatal plasma (p>0.3). This enhanced understanding of neonatal exposure to carotenoids during development may help guide dietary recommendations and design of human milk mimetics.

Concepts: Infant, Antioxidant, United States, Milk, Breastfeeding, Carotenoid, Carotenoids, Xanthophyll


Dietary carotenoids have been proposed to boost immune system and antioxidant functions in vertebrate animals, but studies aimed at testing these physiological functions of carotenoids have often failed to find support. Here we subject yellow canaries (Serinus canaria), which possess high levels of carotenoids in their tissue, and white recessive canaries, which possess a knockdown mutation that results in very low levels of tissue carotenoids, to oxidative and pathogen challenges. Across diverse measures of physiological performance, we detect no differences between carotenoid-rich yellow and carotenoid-deficient white canaries. These results add further challenge to the assumption that carotenoids are directly involved in supporting physiological function in vertebrate animals. While some dietary carotenoids provide indirect benefits as retinoid precursors, our observations suggest that carotenoids themselves may play little to no direct role in key physiological processes in birds.

Concepts: Immune system, Photosynthesis, Antioxidant, Physiology, Bird, Carotenoid, Lycopene, Canary


Antioxidants may protect against oxidative stress, which is associated with tuberculosis disease. However, direct evidence for the protective association between dietary antioxidants and tuberculosis incidence in humans has been lacking. The relation between intake of antioxidant vitamins (A, C, D, E) and individual carotenoids (α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein) and tuberculosis incidence was examined in the Singapore Chinese Health Study, a prospective cohort of 63,257 adults 45-74 years old enrolled during 1993-1998. Baseline intake of these antioxidants was estimated using a validated semi-quantitative food-frequency questionnaire including use of dietary supplements. After an average of 16.9 years follow-up, 1,186 incident active tuberculosis cases were identified among cohort participants. Compared to the lowest quartile, reduced active tuberculosis risk was observed for the highest quartile of vitamin A (hazard ratio = 0.71, 95% confidence interval: 0.59-0.85; P-trend < 0.01) and β-carotene (hazard ratio = 0.76, 95% confidence interval: 0.63-0.91; P-trend < 0.01), regardless of smoking status. Lower tuberculosis risk was seen for vitamin C among current smokers only. Other vitamins and carotenoids were not associated with tuberculosis risk. These results suggest vitamin C may reduce tuberculosis risk among current smokers by ameliorating oxidative stress, while vitamin A and β-carotene may have additional anti-mycobacterial properties.

Concepts: Nutrition, Antioxidant, Vitamin, Tuberculosis, Carotenoid, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Ascorbic acid