Purpose: To establish a novel protocol for differentiation of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) with high purity from mouse induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC).
Methods: Retinal progenitor cells were differentiated from mouse iPSC, and RPE differentiation was then enhanced by activation of the Wnt signaling pathway, inhibition of the fibroblast growth factor signaling pathway, and inhibition of the Rho-associated, coiled-coil containing protein kinase signaling pathway. Expanded pigmented cells were purified by plate adhesion after Accutase® treatment. Enriched cells were cultured until they developed a cobblestone appearance with cuboidal shape. The characteristics of iPS-RPE were confirmed by gene expression, immunocytochemistry, and electron microscopy. Functions and immunologic features of the iPS-RPE were also evaluated.
Results: We obtained iPS-RPE at high purity (approximately 98%). The iPS-RPE showed apical-basal polarity and cellular structure characteristic of RPE. Expression levels of several RPE markers were lower than those of freshly isolated mouse RPE but comparable to those of primary cultured RPE. The iPS-RPE could form tight junctions, phagocytose photoreceptor outer segments, express immune antigens, and suppress lymphocyte proliferation.
Conclusion: We successfully developed a differentiation/purification protocol to obtain mouse iPS-RPE. The mouse iPS-RPE can serve as an attractive tool for functional and morphological studies of RPE.