Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells have been used in disease modelling and transplantation studies in retinal diseases. Several types of RPE cells have been trialed, ranging from primary cells and immortalized cell lines to stem cell-derived RPE cells. During aging and in disease, the extracellular environment of the RPE cells changes, interfering with RPE cell adhesion. We hypothesize that this could be a key problem in transplantation studies that have reported lack of adhesion and survival of the transplanted RPE cells. Integrins are essential for the proper function of the RPE, mediating adhesion to Bruch’s membrane, and the binding and subsequent phagocytosis of photoreceptor outer segments. Variability that has been found in clinical trials might be due to the variability of cell types used and their expression profiles of surface molecules. Here, we set out to analyze integrin expression in primary rat RPE cells and in the human cell line ARPE-19 using immunochemistry. We found that both cell types express integrins to varying degrees. After long-term culturing, ARPE-19 cells resemble mature RPE cells, and increase integrin expression. We hence argue that it is important to test the properties of these cells prior to transplantation to avoid failure of adhesion and to facilitate correct function.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience