Fucoxanthin is a carotenoid with many pharmaceutical properties that is found in brown seaweed. However, the effects of fucoxanthin on corneal innervation and intense eye pain have not been extensively examined. To clarify the protective roles and underlying mechanisms of fucoxanthin on ocular lesions, we investigated the beneficial effects and mechanisms by which fucoxanthin ameliorates ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced corneal denervation and trigeminal pain. Treatment with fucoxanthin enhanced the expression of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 in the cornea. Inhibition of typical denervation and epithelial exfoliation in the cornea were observed in rats treated with fucoxanthin following UVB-induced nerve disorders. Moreover, the active phosphorylated form of p38 MAP kinase (pp38) and the number of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP)-positive neural cells were significantly reduced. Decreased expression of neuron-selective transient receptor potential vanilloid type 1 (TRPV1) in the trigeminal ganglia neurons was also demonstrated in rats treated with fucoxanthin after UVB-induced keratitis. Symptoms of inflammatory pain, including difficulty in opening the eyes and eye wipe behaviour, were also reduced in fucoxanthin-treated groups. Pre-treatment with fucoxanthin may protect the eyes from denervation and inhibit trigeminal pain in UVB-induced photokeratitis models.
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