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Original Article

Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2023; 27(5): 449-456

Published online September 1, 2023

Copyright © Korean J Physiol Pharmacol.

N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine degradation in human retinal pigment epithelial cells via memantine- and ifenprodil-mediated autophagy

Jae Rim Lee and Kwang Won Jeong*

College of Pharmacy, Gachon Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Gachon University, Incheon 21936, Korea

Correspondence to:Kwang Won Jeong

Author contributions: J.R.L. performed the tests and data analysis. K.W.J. and J.R.L. created and designed the study. K.W.J. interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. All the authors have read and approved this manuscript.

Received: January 20, 2023; Revised: April 26, 2023; Accepted: April 27, 2023

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License, which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are ionic glutamine receptors involved in brain development and functions such as learning and memory formation. NMDA receptor inhibition is associated with autophagy activation. In this study, we investigated whether the NMDA receptor antagonists, memantine and ifenprodil, induce autophagy in human retinal pigment epithelial cells (ARPE-19) to remove Nretinylidene- N-retinylethanolamine (A2E), an intracellular lipofuscin component. Fluorometric analysis using labeled A2E (A2E-BDP) and confocal microscopic examination revealed that low concentrations of NMDA receptor antagonists, which did not induce cytotoxicity, significantly reduced A2E accumulation in ARPE-19 cells. In addition, memantine and ifenprodil activated autophagy in ARPE-19 cells as measured by microtubule-associated protein 1A/1B-light chain3-II formation and phosphorylated p62 protein levels. Further, to understand the correlation between memantine- and ifenprodil-mediated A2E degradation and autophagy, autophagy-related 5 (ATG5) was depleted using RNA interference. Memantine and ifenprodil failed to degrade A2E in ARPE-19 cells lacking ATG5. Taken together, our study indicates that the NMDA receptor antagonists, memantine and ifenprodil, can remove A2E accumulated in cells via autophagy activation in ARPE-19 cells.

Keywords: A2E, ARPE-19, Autophagy, Ifenprodil, Memantine