Differential toxic effect of dissolved triamcinolone and its crystalline deposits on cultured human retinal pigment epithelium (ARPE19) cells

Peter Szurman*, Radoslaw Kaczmarek, Martin S. Spitzer, Gesine B. Jaissle, Patrice Decker, Salvatore Grisanti, Sigrid Henke-Fahle, Sabine Aisenbrey, Karl Ulrich Bartz-Schmidt

*Corresponding author for this work
47 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of the study was to evaluate the antiproliferative and cytotoxic properties of triamcinolone acetonide (TA) on human retinal pigment epithelium cells (ARPE19) and the role of epicellular crystalline deposits. Monolayer cultures of ARPE19 cells were used. Purified or unpurified crystalline TA suspension (0.01-1.0 mg/ml) or the vehicle alone (benzyl alcohol, 0.025%-0.00025%), diluted in culture medium, were added to the cells that were either grown on cell culture dishes covered by a protecting membrane filter insert or without a filter. After 1, 3, 5 and 7 days mitochondrial activity was measured using the MTT assay and the morphology assessed microscopically. Cellular proliferative activity was monitored by BrdU-incorporation into cellular DNA. For cytotoxicity assays ARPE19 cells were grown to confluence and then cultured in a serum-deficient medium to ensure a static milieu. Annexin V-FITC and propidium iodide co-staining was performed and analyzed by flow cytometry. Exposure to TA without direct cellular contact showed a moderate antiproliferative activity resulting in a dose-dependent suppression of DNA synthesis (maximum 42.7%), but not a cytotoxic effect. In contrast, adherent deposits of crystalline TA particles on top of the cell layer caused a rapid-progressive and dose-dependent cell death preceded by an early phosphatidylserine externalization to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane. Within a healthy, confluent cell layer the number of viable cells decreased by 14.2, 20.8 and 68.8%, respectively, after one day of direct exposure. Exposure to the vehicle alone caused only a slight growth inhibitory effect in a proliferating cell layer, but early signs of cell death were detected even at the lowest concentration tested. In conclusion, the effect of the vehicle is less pronounced than formerly assumed, but not negligible, thus indicating a beneficial effect of purification. While non-adherent TA, if purified, appears to be safe in clinically used concentrations, direct physical contact with crystalline particles might cause a local, rapid-progressive cytotoxicity that involves the induction of the apoptotic cascade. Therefore, epiretinal deposits after intravitreal TA administration might be critical in terms of long-term biocompatibility.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental Eye Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)584-592
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 09.2006

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)


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