Dynamic lipid turnover in photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium throughout life

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2022 Jul;89:101037. doi: 10.1016/j.preteyeres.2021.101037. Epub 2021 Dec 29.


The retinal pigment epithelium-photoreceptor interphase is renewed each day in a stunning display of cellular interdependence. While photoreceptors use photosensitive pigments to convert light into electrical signals, the RPE supports photoreceptors in their function by phagocytizing shed photoreceptor tips, regulating the blood retina barrier, and modulating inflammatory responses, as well as regenerating the 11-cis-retinal chromophore via the classical visual cycle. These processes involve multiple protein complexes, tightly regulated ligand-receptors interactions, and a plethora of lipids and protein-lipids interactions. The role of lipids in maintaining a healthy interplay between the RPE and photoreceptors has not been fully delineated. In recent years, novel technologies have resulted in major advancements in understanding several facets of this interplay, including the involvement of lipids in phagocytosis and phagolysosome function, nutrient recycling, and the metabolic dependence between the two cell types. In this review, we aim to integrate the complex role of lipids in photoreceptor and RPE function, emphasizing the dynamic exchange between the cells as well as discuss how these processes are affected in aging and retinal diseases.

Keywords: Aging; Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); Membranes; Photoreceptors; Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA); RPE; Rod outer segment; lipids; lipids in eye diseases.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood-Retinal Barrier
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism
  • Retinal Diseases* / metabolism
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium* / metabolism


  • Lipids