Eye development: a view from the retina pigmented epithelium

Bioessays. 2004 Jul;26(7):766-77. doi: 10.1002/bies.20064.


The retina pigment epithelium (RPE) is a highly specialised epithelium that serves as a multifunctional and indispensable component of the vertebrate eye. Although a great deal of attention has been paid to its transdifferentiation capabilities and its ancillary functions in neural retina development, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that specify the RPE itself. Recent advances in our understanding of the genetic network that controls the progressive specification of the eye anlage in vertebrates have provided some of the initial cues to the mechanisms responsible for RPE patterning. Here, we have outlined many recent findings that suggest that a limited number of transcription factors, including Otx2, Mitf and Pax6 and a few signalling cascades, are the elements required for the onset of RPE specification in vertebrates. Furthermore, using this information and the data available on the specification of the pigmented cells of primitive chordates, we have ventured some hypotheses on the origin of RPE cells during evolution.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Humans
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / embryology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Retina / cytology*
  • Retina / embryology*
  • Retina / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors