Spatial and spectral characterization of human retinal pigment epithelium fluorophore families by ex vivo hyperspectral autofluorescence imaging

Academic Article


  • Purpose: Discovery of candidate spectra for abundant fluorophore families in human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) by ex vivo hyperspectral imaging. Methods: Hyperspectral autofluorescence emission images were captured between 420 and 720 nm (10-nm intervals), at two excitation bands (436-460, 480-510 nm), from three locations (fovea, perifovea, near-periphery) in 20 normal RPE/Bruch’s membrane (BrM) flatmounts. Mathematical factorization extracted a BrM spectrum (S0) and abundant lipofuscin/melanolipofuscin (LF/ML) spectra of RPE origin (S1, S2, S3) from each tissue. Results: Smooth spectra S1 to S3, with perinuclear localization consistent with LF/ML at all three retinal locations and both excitations in 14 eyes (84 datasets), were included in the analysis. The mean peak emissions of S0, S1, and S2 at ʎex 436 nm were, respectively, 495 ± 14, 535 ± 17, and 576 ± 20 nm. S3 was generally trimodal, with peaks at either 580, 620, or 650 nm (peak mode, 650 nm). At ʎex 480 nm, S0, S1, and S2 were red-shifted to 526 ± 9, 553 ± 10, and 588 ± 23 nm, and S3 was again trimodal (peak mode, 620 nm). S1 often split into two spectra, S1A and S1B. S3 strongly colocalized with melanin. There were no significant differences across age, sex, or retinal location. Conclusions: There appear to be at least three families of abundant RPE fluorophores that are ubiquitous across age, retinal location, and sex in this sample of healthy eyes. Further molecular characterization by imaging mass spectrometry and localization via super-resolution microscopy should elucidate normal and abnormal RPE physiology involving fluorophores. Translational Relevance: Our results help establish hyperspectral autofluorescence imaging of the human retinal pigment epithelium as a useful tool for investigating retinal health and disease.
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    Author List

  • Ben Ami T; Tong Y; Bhuiyan A; Huisingh C; Ablonczy Z; Ach T; Curcio CA; Smith RT
  • Volume

  • 5
  • Issue

  • 3