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Qitao Zhang, Feriel Presswalla, Melissa Calton, Carol Charniga, Jeffrey Stern, Sally Temple, Douglas Vollrath, David N. Zacks, Robin R. Ali, Debra A. Thompson, Jason M. L. Miller; Highly Differentiated Human Fetal RPE Cultures Are Resistant to the Accumulation and Toxicity of Lipofuscin-Like Material. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(10):3468-3479. doi: 10.1167/iovs.19-26690.
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The accumulation of undigestible autofluorescent material (UAM), termed lipofuscin in vivo, is a hallmark of aged RPE. Lipofuscin derives, in part, from the incomplete degradation of phagocytized photoreceptor outer segments (OS). Whether this accumulated waste is toxic is unclear. We therefore investigated the effects of UAM in highly differentiated human fetal RPE (hfRPE) cultures.
Unmodified and photo-oxidized OS were fed daily to confluent cultures of ARPE-19 RPE or hfRPE. The emission spectrum, composition, and morphology of resulting UAM were measured and compared to in vivo lipofuscin. Effects of UAM on multiple RPE phenotypes were assessed.
Compared to ARPE-19, hfRPE were markedly less susceptible to UAM buildup. Accumulated UAM in hfRPE initially resembled the morphology of lipofuscin from AMD eyes, but compacted and shifted spectrum over time to resemble lipofuscin from healthy aged human RPE. UAM accumulation mildly reduced transepithelial electrical resistance, ketogenesis, certain RPE differentiation markers, and phagocytosis efficiency, while inducing senescence and rare, focal pockets of epithelial-mesenchymal transition. However, it had no effects on mitochondrial oxygen consumption rate, certain other RPE differentiation markers, secretion of drusen components or polarity markers, nor cell death.
hfRPE demonstrates a remarkable resistance to UAM accumulation, suggesting mechanisms for efficient OS processing that may be lost in other RPE culture models. Furthermore, while UAM alters hfRPE phenotype, the effects are modest, consistent with conflicting reports in the literature on the toxicity of lipofuscin. Our results suggest that healthy RPE may adequately adapt to and tolerate lipofuscin accumulation.
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