Rev-Erbα and Photoreceptor Outer Segments modulate the Circadian Clock in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells

Sci Rep. 2019 Aug 13;9(1):11790. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-48203-3.


Retinal photoreceptor outer segments (POS) are renewed daily through phagocytosis by the adjacent retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) monolayer. Phagocytosis is mainly driven by the RPE circadian clock but the underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. Using ARPE-19 (human RPE cell-line) dispersed and monolayer cell cultures, we investigated the influence of cellular organization on the RPE clock and phagocytosis genes. PCR analysis revealed rhythmic expression of clock and phagocytosis genes in all ARPE-19 cultures. Monolayers had a tendency for higher amplitudes of clock gene oscillations. In all conditions ARNTL, CRY1, PER1-2, REV-ERBα, ITGB5, LAMP1 and PROS1 were rhythmically expressed with REV-ERBα being among the clock genes whose expression showed most robust rhythms in ARPE-19 cells. Using RPE-choroid explant preparations of the mPer2Luc knock-in mice we found that Rev-Erbα deficiency induced significantly longer periods and earlier phases of PER2-bioluminescence oscillations. Furthermore, early phagocytosis factors β5-Integrin and FAK and the lysosomal marker LAMP1 protein levels are rhythmic. Finally, POS incubation affects clock and clock-controlled phagocytosis gene expression in RPE monolayers in a time-dependent manner suggesting that POS can reset the RPE clock. These results shed some light on the complex interplay between POS, the RPE clock and clock-controlled phagocytosis machinery which is modulated by Rev-Erbα.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics*
  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group D, Member 1 / genetics*
  • Phagocytosis / genetics
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Retinal Photoreceptor Cell Outer Segment / metabolism
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / cytology
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / metabolism*


  • Circadian Rhythm Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Nuclear Receptor Subfamily 1, Group D, Member 1
  • RNA, Messenger