A human retinal pigment epithelial cell line that retains epithelial characteristics after prolonged culture

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1995 Apr;36(5):955-64.


Purpose: A spontaneously arising, apparently transformed, cell line has been cloned from a primary culture of human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and has been subcultured more than 200 times. The similarities of these cells to human RPE cells in vivo have been determined.

Methods: The structure of the transformed cells has been determined by light and electron microscopy and by immunocytochemistry using antibodies that detect cytoskeletal and other proteins. The ability of the cell line to bind and phagocytose photoreceptor material has also been assessed by fluorescence and electron microscopy. The metabolism of all-trans-retinol has been investigated by incubation of the cells with 3H-all-trans-retinol and analysis of the metabolic products by high-performance liquid chromatography.

Results: The transformed cells possess an epithelial cobblestone morphology with intercellular junctional complexes containing N-cadherin. The cytoskeleton of these cells comprises cytokeratins that are characteristic of epithelial cells, together with actin, spectrin, and vimentin. The keratins expressed are those typical of RPE cells. The cells also express cellular retinaldehyde binding protein and retinol dehydrogenase activity but do not express retinoid isomerase or lecithin retinol acyl transferase activities. These cells also exhibit phagocytic activity.

Conclusions: This cell line retains many of the metabolic and morphologic characteristics of RPE cells in vivo although there are some differences, particularly the loss of some enzymatic activities and cytoskeletal polarization. These cells should be useful in further studies of RPE cell metabolism and other functions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Child
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Clone Cells
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / analysis
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Humans
  • Karyotyping
  • Male
  • Phagocytosis / physiology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / ultrastructure
  • Rod Cell Outer Segment / metabolism
  • Vitamin A / metabolism


  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Vitamin A