The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) lies between the retina and the choroid of the eye and plays a vital role in ocular metabolism. The RPE develops from the same sheet of neuroepithelium as the retina and the two derivatives become distinguished by different expression patterns of a number of transcription factors during embryonic development. As the RPE layer differentiates it expresses a set of unique molecules, many of which are restricted to certain regions of the cell. PRE cells undergo both a loss of polarity and a loss of expression of many of these cell type-specific molecules when placed in monolayer culture. The RPE of many species, including mammals, can be induced to transdifferentiate by growth factors such as basic fibroblast growth factor. Under the influence of such factors the RPE is triggered to alter expression of a wide array of molecules and to take on a retinal epithelium fate, from which differentiated retinal cell types including rod photoreceptors can be produced.