Author(s): Korte GE, Reppucci V, Henkind P
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Abstract The authors have obtained evidence that destruction of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) causes choriocapillaris (CC) atrophy. The observations led us to hypothesize that the RPE modulates CC structure and function. Rabbits received injections of sodium iodate, which selectively destroyed the RPE. The authors killed the rabbits at various times after iodate and examined the RPE and CC by fluorescein angiography, fundus photography, and light and electron microscopy. Fluorescein angiography and fundus photography revealed a pattern of retinopathy similar to that described by other investigators, eg, blood-retinal barrier breakdown and the patchy nature of the RPE/CC degeneration. One week after injection of iodate, the RPE transformed into a mixture of flattened, depigmented cells and plump, highly pigmented ones lying along Bruch's membrane. The CC appeared normal by light microscopy, but electron microscopy revealed changes indicating CC atrophy: degenerating endothelial cells (EC), EC that appeared normal but had reduced numbers of fenestrae, and pericapillary basal laminae that looped away from the endothelium, as if the latter had shrunk. One month after iodate, patches of Bruch's membrane were devoid of RPE, which was replaced by scar tissue. The CC was markedly atrophic over these patches, having reduced numbers of profiles and smaller lumina in those which remained. The CC appeared normal over areas where RPE remained. Eleven weeks after iodate, the light microscopic picture parallelled that seen 1 month after injection, but the patchy RPE degeneration was more extensive. By electron microscopy, the CC profiles over areas devoid of RPE showed severe atrophy. Degenerating EC were more numerous. EC adjacent to areas of RPE loss had few or no fenestrae. Here, capillaries were encased in dense, collagenous, connective tissue, unlike the CC of normal rabbits. These changes were not seen where the RPE still covered Bruch's membrane. These observations suggest that RPE modulates CC structure and function. The authors propose that a diffusible vascular modulating factor produced by RPE cells does this.
This article was published in Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology