Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the role of Bcl-2, Bcl-X L, Bax, and c-Fos in regulation of apoptosis, induced by ultraviolet-light A (UV-A) and daunorubicin (DNR), in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells grown on bovine extracellular matrix (ECM)-coated or uncoated plastic dishes.
Methods: Apoptosis in confluent RPE cells cultured on ECM-coated or uncoated dishes was induced by UV-A or DNR. Apoptosis was detected by 7-amino-actinomycin D labeling followed by flow cytometry and by terminal deoxy-transferase mediated X-dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL). Cellular expression of Bcl-2, Bcl-X L, Bax, and c-Fos was determined by the use of antibodies and flow cytometry, Western blot analysis, and immunocytochemical staining.
Results: Both UV-A and DNR induce apoptosis in human RPE cells in vitro. Human fetal RPE cells grown on ECM-coated dishes were significantly more resistant to UV-A or DNR induced apoptosis than cells grown on uncoated dishes. RPE cells grown on ECM-coated dishes expressed higher Bcl-2 levels and lower Bax levels compared to cells grown on uncoated dishes. However, Bcl-X L and c-Fos levels were comparable in the two cultures. After UV-A or DNR treatment, Bcl-2, Bcl-X L, Bax, and c-Fos levels were differently regulated in cells grown on ECM-coated dishes compared to cells grown on uncoated dishes.
Conclusion: A significant protection against apoptosis of RPE cells grown on ECM compared to cells grown on uncoated plastic dishes was found after exposure to UV-A or DNR. This protection was found to be proportionally correlated to the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 and inversely correlated to the expression of Bax. Furthermore a sustained induction and expression of c-Fos was found to correlate to a higher percentage of apoptotic cells of RPE cells grown on plastic. These findings demonstrate that ECM is of great importance for RPE cell survival during noxious stimuli and points out the essential role for a healthy Bruch's Membrane (BM) for RPE survival.