Interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP): expression in the adult and developing Xenopus retina

J Comp Neurol. 1996 Apr 8;367(3):329-41. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-9861(19960408)367:3<329::AID-CNE1>3.0.CO;2-7.


Apposition of the neural retina and pigment epithelium is critical to photoreceptor development and function. Interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein (IRBP) is a major component of the extracellular matrix separating these epithelia in the African clawed frog Xenopus laevis (Gonzalez-Fernandez et al., [1993], J. Cell Sci. 105:7-21). In the adult retina, IRBP appears to mediate the transport of hydrophobic molecules, particularly retinoids and fatty acids, within the hydrophilic extracellular domain. In this paper, we compare the distribution of IRBP and its mRNA in adult and embryonic Xenopus retina. Xenopus IRBP antisense RNA, labeled with tritium or digoxigenin, was used for in situ hybridizaton studies. For immunohistochemistry, we used an antiserum against Xenopus IRBP expressed in Escherichia coli. In the adult, we found that IRBP is synthesized at similar levels by both rods and cones. The protein is restricted to the interphotoreceptor matrix, with lesser amounts in the pigment epithelial cytoplasm. In the embryo, expression of the mRNA for IRBP is restricted to the central retina, where photoreceptor differentiation has taken place. By contrast, the protein is distributed throughout the embryonic subretinal space. Therefore, the presence of IRBP precedes photoreceptor differentiation. In summary, IRBP is synthesized by both rods and cones and may be internalized by the pigment epithelium. In the embryo, IRBP is synthesized by the central retina and diffuses through the matrix, reaching the undifferentiated peripheral retina. In view of its ligand-binding properties, diffusion of IRBP may provide the peripheral neural retina with a vehicle to transport retinoids and docosahexaenoic acid (molecules critical to normal retinal development) from the pigment epithelium.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis*
  • Retina / embryology
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retina / metabolism*
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Xenopus laevis / embryology
  • Xenopus laevis / growth & development
  • Xenopus laevis / metabolism*


  • Eye Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Retinol-Binding Proteins
  • interstitial retinol-binding protein