Nutrition and Health Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155488.


© 2016 Tanprasertsuk et al.

Open access



Lutein, a dietary carotenoid, selectively accumulates in human retina and brain. While many epidemiological studies show evidence of a relationship between lutein status and cognitive health, lutein’s selective uptake in human brain tissue and its potential function in early neural development and cognitive health have been poorly evaluated at a molecular level. The objective of this study was to evaluate the cross-sectional relationship between concentrations of brain lutein and StARD3 (identified as its binding protein in retinal tissue) among three age groups: infants (1–4 months, n = 10), older adults (55–86 years, n = 8), and centenarians (98–105 years, n = 10). Brain lutein concentrations were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography and StARD3 levels were analyzed by Western Blot analysis. The strong relationship in infant brains (r = 0.75, P < 0.001) suggests that lutein has a role in neural development. The relationship remained significant but weaker in older adults (r = 0.51, P < 0.05) and insignificant in centenarians (r = 0.08, P > 0.05), seven of whom had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. These exploratory findings suggest an age-related decrease or abnormality of StARD3 activity in human brain. Given that StARD3 is also involved in cholesterol transportation, a process that is aberrant in neurodegenerative diseases, the potential protective function of lutein against these diseases remains to be explored.