Changes in choriocapillaris and retinal pigment epithelium in age-related macular degeneration

Mol Vis. 1999 Nov 3:5:35.


Retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) and the choriocapillaris are on opposite sides of Bruch's membrane and control transport in and out of the retina. In age-related macular degeneration (AMD), they may also be responsible for deposition of material in and on Bruch's membrane and the formation or regression of choroidal neovascularization (CNV). Indocyanine green (ICG) angiography can be used to visualize the choroidal vasculature and CNV. Filling of the choriocapillaris with ICG was delayed in subjects older than 50 years of age, and areas of hypofluorescence were observed in maculas of AMD subjects, often associated with CNV. Laser Doppler flowmetry of the choriocapillaris in the macula demonstrated that choroidal blood flow and volume are reduced in subjects older than 46 years of age and further decreased in subjects with AMD. The human choriocapillaris can be histologically studied in two dimensions by incubating the tissue for alkaline phosphatase activity, flat-embedding it in transparent polymer and sectioning it. Using this technique, choriocapillaris dropout was found to be associated with deposition of material in Bruch's membrane in diabetic subjects. When RPE are removed from Bruch's membrane, the choriocapillaris degenerates; the regeneration of choriocapillaris can be blocked by Genistein, a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Finally, RPE cells may produce substances that both stimulate the formation and regression of CNV in animal models. These studies suggest that there may be a reduction in choriocapillaris flow in AMD, and this loss of choriocapillaris can be associated with the Bruch's membrane deposits that are hallmarks of AMD. Furthermore, RPE may stimulate the formation and regression of CNV and RPE loss can result in loss of choriocapillaris.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography
  • Capillaries / drug effects
  • Capillaries / pathology*
  • Choroid / blood supply*
  • Choroid / drug effects
  • Choroid / pathology*
  • Coloring Agents
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Fovea Centralis / blood supply
  • Genistein / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Indocyanine Green
  • Macular Degeneration / pathology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / blood supply*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / physiology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / surgery


  • Coloring Agents
  • Genistein
  • Indocyanine Green