Selenite, the most commonly encountered toxic form of selenium, in overdose, is used to induce cataracts in rats. This study demonstrated that selenite, but not selenate, would interact with the carotenoid astaxanthin (ASTX), as determined using isothermal titration calorimetry and NMR. The maximum absorption of ASTX decreased with increasing selenite concentration, indicating that the conjugated system of ASTX was changed by selenite. Such interactions between ASTX and selenite were also supported by the attenuation of selenite-induced turbidity by ASTX (0-12.5 μM) in vitro. In vivo experiments also showed that ASTX attenuated selenite-induced cataractogenesis in rats. In summary, this is the first report of a direct interaction of ASTX with selenite. This interaction is supported by an in vitro assay and may be partially responsible for the ASTX observed in vivo protection against selenite-induced cataractogenesis.
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