The human retinal pigment epithelium forms early in development and subsequently remains dormant, undergoing minimal proliferation throughout normal life. Retinal pigment epithelium proliferation, however, can be activated in disease states or by removing retinal pigment epithelial cells into culture. We review the conditions that control retinal pigment epithelial proliferation in culture, in animal models and in human disease and interpret retinal pigment epithelium proliferation in context of the recently discovered retinal pigment epithelium stem cell that is responsible for most in vitro retinal pigment epithelial proliferation. Retinal pigment epithelial proliferation-mediated wound repair that occurs in selected macular diseases is contrasted with retinal pigment epithelial proliferation-mediated fibroblastic scar formation that underlies proliferative vitreoretinopathy. We discuss the role of retinal pigment epithelial proliferation in age-related macular degeneration which is reparative in some cases and destructive in others. Macular retinal pigment epithelium wound repair and regression of choroidal neovascularization are more pronounced in younger than older patients. We discuss the possibility that the limited retinal pigment epithelial proliferation and latent wound repair in older age-related macular degeneration patients can be stimulated to promote disease regression in age-related macular degeneration.
Keywords: Retinal pigment epithelium; age-related macular degeneration; choroidal neovascularization; proliferative vitreoretinopathy; retinal pigment epithelial proliferation; stem cell; wound repair.
© 2015 by the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine.