The macular pigment. I. Absorbance spectra, localization, and discrimination from other yellow pigments in primate retinas

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1984 Jun;25(6):660-73.


The nonbleaching yellow pigments of the primate fovea were studied by microspectrophotometry (MSP). Retinas fixed with glutaraldehyde/paraformaldehyde mixtures retained yellow pigments with absorbance spectra very similar to those recorded by MSP in fresh retinas. This allowed the authors to prepare retinal sections for localization of the pigments. The spectrum of the macular pigment in fixed tissue is shifted slightly (about 6 nm) toward longer wavelengths, with maximum absorbance at 460 nm. Two short-wavelength yellow pigments also have been identified, with absorbance maxima at 410 nm ( P410 ) and 435 nm ( P435 ), respectively. All three yellow pigments are present in the fovea. The short-wavelength pigments are detected more easily outside the central foveal region because the macular pigment does not obscure them there. They are especially apparent when the MSP beam is confined to the outer nuclear layer or the inner segment layer of retinal sections. The macular pigment is most dense in the fiber layers (receptor axon layer and inner plexiform layer); its density declines markedly with retinal eccentricity. The maximal absorbance of P410 and P435 is usually lower than that of the macular pigment in the central fovea, but their densities and relative proportions change more gradually with eccentricity. Consequently, their maximal absorbance is higher than that of the macular pigment outside the foveal center. The P410 and P435 pigments may be two different oxidation states of one or more respiratory hemoproteins. Commonly used procedures for estimating the absorbance spectrum of the macular pigment by comparing the foveal center with a parafoveal region may be influenced by the amounts and the oxidation states of the short-wavelength pigments in the living eye.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cebus
  • Macaca
  • Macula Lutea / analysis*
  • Retinal Pigments / analysis*
  • Saimiri
  • Spectrophotometry*


  • Retinal Pigments