Retinal pigment epithelial lipofuscin and melanin and choroidal melanin in human eyes

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1986 Feb;27(2):145-52.


Optical measurements of the pigments of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and choroid were made on 38 human autopsy eyes of both blacks and whites, varying in age between 2 wk and 90 yr old. Lipofuscin in melanin-bleached RPE was measured as fluorescence at 470 mm following excitation at 365 nm and was found to be proportional to fluorescence measured at 560 nm in unbleached tissue. Transmission measurements of RPE and choroidal melanin were converted and expressed as optical density units. The choroidal melanin content increased from the periphery to the posterior pole. RPE melanin concentration decreased from the periphery to the posterior pole with an increase in the macula. Conversely, the amount of RPE lipofuscin increased from the periphery to the posterior pole with a consistent dip at the fovea. There was an inverse relationship between RPE lipofuscin concentration and RPE melanin concentration. The RPE melanin content was similar between whites and blacks. Lipofuscin concentration was significantly greater (P = 0.002) in the RPE of whites compared to blacks; whereas blacks had a significantly greater (P = 0.005) choroidal melanin content than whites. The amounts of both choroidal and RPE melanin showed a trend of decreasing content with aging, whereas the amount RPE lipofuscin tended to increase (whites greater than blacks). Per fundus area, the amount of choroidal melanin was always greater than that in the RPE. There was a statistically significant (P = 0.001) increase in RPE height with age, most marked in eyes of whites after age 50 and correlated with the increase in lipofuscin concentration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Black People
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Choroid / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lipofuscin / analysis*
  • Macula Lutea / analysis
  • Male
  • Melanins / analysis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / analysis*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / anatomy & histology
  • Pigments, Biological / analysis*


  • Lipofuscin
  • Melanins
  • Pigments, Biological