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M L Katz, L M Rice, C L Gao; Reversible accumulation of lipofuscin-like inclusions in the retinal pigment epithelium.. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 1999;40(1):175-181.
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PURPOSE: The amounts of autofluorescent lysosomal storage bodies, known as lipofuscin, increase during senescence in the retinal pigment epithelia (RPEs) of mammalian eyes. This increase in lipofuscin content may result from a failure of the RPE to dispose of any lipofuscin constituents once they have formed. Alternatively, the RPE may eliminate lipofuscin but at a rate insufficient to prevent its accumulation. Experiments were conducted to distinguish between these two possibilities. METHODS: Albino rats were given intravitreal injections of the protease inhibitor leupeptin, which induces a rapid accumulation of lipofuscin-like inclusions in the RPE. The amount of these inclusions in the RPE was monitored as a function of time after the leupeptin treatment with quantitative ultrastructural analysis. In addition, the intensity of lipofuscin-specific fluorescence in the RPE was monitored over the same time period with the use of quantitative microfluorometry. These parameters were also followed in untreated control eyes of age-matched animals. RESULTS: A single leupeptin injection resulted in a rapid massive accumulation of electron-dense inclusion bodies in the RPE. These inclusions appeared to be derived primarily from phagocytosed photoreceptor outer segments. Accompanying the accumulation of these inclusions was a significant increase in lipofuscin-specific fluorescence in the RPE. Over a 12-week period after the leupeptin treatment, the amounts of inclusion material and the fluorescence intensities returned to normal levels. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that the age-related increase in RPE lipofuscin content results from an imbalance in the rates of lipofuscin formation and disposal rather than from a complete absence of a disposal mechanism. The results imply that turnover of lipofuscin constituents may be rapid relative to the animals' life span. Thus, it may be possible to slow or reverse the age-related increase in RPE lipofuscin content by either inhibiting the processes involved in lipofuscin formation or enhancing the disposal processes.
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