Multi-nucleate retinal pigment epithelium cells of the human macula exhibit a characteristic and highly specific distribution

Academic Article


  • BACKGROUND: The human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is reportedly 3% bi-nucleated. The importance to human vision of multi-nucleated (MN)-RPE cells could be clarified with more data about their distribution in central retina.METHODS: Nineteen human RPE-flatmounts (9 ≤ 51 years, 10 > 80 years) were imaged at 12 locations: 3 eccentricities (fovea, perifovea, near periphery) in 4 quadrants (superior, inferior, temporal, nasal). Image stacks of lipofuscin-attributable autofluorescence and phalloidin labeled F-actin cytoskeleton were obtained using a confocal fluorescence microscope. Nuclei were devoid of autofluorescence and were marked using morphometric software. Cell areas were approximated by Voronoi regions. Mean number of nuclei per cell among eccentricity/quadrant groups and by age were compared using Poisson and binominal regression models.RESULTS: A total of 11,403 RPE cells at 200 locations were analyzed: 94.66% mono-, 5.31% bi-, 0.02% tri-nucleate, and 0.01% with 5 nuclei. Age had no effect on number of nuclei. There were significant regional differences: highest frequencies of MN-cells were found at the perifovea (9.9%) and near periphery (6.8%). The fovea lacked MN-cells almost entirely. The nasal quadrant had significantly more MN-cells compared to other quadrants, at all eccentricities.CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates MN-RPE cells in human macula. MN-cells may arise due to endoreplication, cell fusion, or incomplete cell division. The topography of MN-RPE cells follows the topography of photoreceptors; with near-absence at the fovea (cones only) and high frequency at perifovea (highest rod density). This distribution might reflect specific requirements of retinal metabolism or other mechanisms addressable in further studies.
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    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Starnes AC; Huisingh C; McGwin G; Sloan KR; Ablonczy Z; Smith RT; Curcio CA; Ach T
  • Start Page

  • e001
  • Volume

  • 33