Differential regulation of tight junction permeability during development of the retinal pigment epithelium

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2000 Sep;279(3):C744-50. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.2000.279.3.C744.


The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is an epithelial region of the blood-brain barrier. During embryogenesis, permeability of the barrier gradually decreases. A culture model of RPE development revealed differences in how tight junctions regulate the paracellular diffusion of ionic and nonionic solutes (Ban Y and Rizzolo LJ. Mol Vis 3: 18, 1997). To examine these differences, the permeation of ionic and nonionic monosaccharides was compared with mannitol, and the permeation of the alkali metals was compared with sodium. The order of permeation was 3-O-methlyglucose = glucosamine = mannitol > N-acetylneuraminic acid. The ratio of N-acetylneuraminic acid to mannitol permeability decreased with embryonic age of the RPE or exposure to retinal-conditioned medium. Neither the ratio nor the permeability was affected by inhibiting transcytosis. The ratio increased if tight junctions were disrupted in low-calcium medium. The permeation of cations followed the sequence cesium > rubidium > potassium = sodium > lithium and was unaffected by embryonic age or retinal-conditioned medium. These results are considered in terms of a model in which the size distribution, charge, or number of open junctional pores could be modulated. It suggests that different subpopulations of pores can be regulated independently during development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chick Embryo
  • Mannitol / pharmacokinetics
  • Metals, Alkali / pharmacokinetics
  • Monosaccharides / pharmacokinetics
  • Permeability
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / embryology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism*
  • Sodium / pharmacokinetics
  • Tight Junctions / metabolism*


  • Metals, Alkali
  • Monosaccharides
  • Mannitol
  • Sodium