University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


Formation of lipofuscin-like material in the RPE Cell by different components of rod outer segments

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Ophthalmology



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Retinal Pigment Epithelium; Lipofuscin




The mechanisms that control the natural rate of lipofuscin accumulation in the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell and its stability over time are not well understood. Similarly, the contributions of retinoids, phospholipids and oxidation to the rate of accumulation of lipofuscin are uncertain. The experiments in this study were conducted to explore the individual contribution of rod outer segments (ROS) components to lipofuscin formation and its accumulation and stability over time. During the period of 14 days incubation of ROS, lipofuscin-like autofluorescence (LLAF) determined at two wavelengths (530 and 585 nm) by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) was measured from RPE cells. The autofluorescence increased in an exponential manner with a strong linear component between days 1 and 7. The magnitude of the increase was larger in cells incubated with 4-hydroxynonenal (HNE-ROS) compared with cells incubated with either bleached or unbleached ROS, but with a different spectral profile. A small (10-15%) decrease in LLAF was observed after stopping the ROS feeding for 14 days. The phagocytosis rate of HNE-ROS was higher than that of either bleached or unbleached ROS during the first 24 h of supplementation. Among the different ROS components, the increase of LLAF was highest in cells incubated with all-trans-retinal. Surprisingly, incubation with 11-cis-retinal and 9-cis-retinal also resulted in strong LLAF increase, comparable to the increase induced by all-trans-retinal. Supplementation with liposomes containing phosphatidylethanolamine (22: 6-PE) and phosphatidylcholine (18:1-PC) also increased LLAF, while incubation with opsin had little effect. Cells incubated with retinoids demonstrated strong dose-dependence in LLAF increase, and the magnitude of the increase was 2-3 times higher at 585 nm compared to 530 nm, while cells incubated with liposomes showed little dose-dependence and similar increase at both wavelengths. Very little difference in LLAF was noted between cells incubated with either unbleached or bleached ROS under any conditions. In summary, results from this study suggest that supplementation with various ROS components can lead to an increase in LLAF, although the autofluorescence generated by the different classes of components has distinct spectral profiles, where the autofluorescence induced by retinoids results in a spectral profile closest to the one observed from human lipofuscin. Future fluorescence characterization of LLAF in vitro would benefit from an analysis of multiple wavelengths to better match the spectral characteristics of lipofuscin in vivo.

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Citation: Exp Eye Res. 2013 Apr 18;112C:57-67. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2013.04.006. Link to article on publisher's site

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Link to Article in PubMed