Violet/blue light activates Nrf2 signaling and modulates the inflammatory response of THP-1 monocytes

L. A. Trotter, D. Patel, S. Dubin, C. Guerra, V. McCloud, P. Lockwood, Regina L W Messer, J. C. Wataha, J. B. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Several studies suggest that light in the UVA range (320-400 nm) activates signaling pathways that are anti-inflammatory and antioxidative. These effects have been attributed to Nrf2-mediated upregulation of "phase 2" genes such as heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) that neutralize oxidative stress and metabolize electrophiles. Proteomics analysis previously had shown that small doses of blue light (400-500 nm) increased levels of peroxiredoxin phase 2 proteins in THP-1 monocytes, which led to our hypothesis that blue light activates Nrf2 signaling and thus may serve as an anti-inflammatory agent. THP-1 monocytes were treated with doses of blue light with and without lipopolysaccharide (LPS) inflammatory challenge. Cell lysates were tested for Nrf2 activation and HO-1 production. Treated cells were assessed for viability/mitochondrial activity via trypan blue exclusion and MTT assay, and secretion of two major pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin 8 (IL8) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) was measured using ELISA. Blue light activated the phase 2 response in cultured THP-1 cells and was protective against LPS-induced cytotoxicity. Light pre-treatment also significantly reduced cytokine secretion in response to 0.1 μg ml-1 LPS, but had no anti-inflammatory effect at high LPS levels. This study is the first to report these effects using a light source that is approved for routine use on dental patients. Cellular responses to these light energies are worth further study and may provide therapeutic interventions for inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)883-889
Number of pages7
JournalPhotochemical and Photobiological Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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