Visual deprivation of the chicken eye causes axial elongation with high myopia. The cartilaginous layer of the myopic sclera shows an increase of mitotic activity. Previous studies reported that the in vivo administration of apomorphine, a dopamine nonselective agonist, effectively prevents visual-deprivation myopia. Because the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) regulates growth of the sclera as we and others have shown previously, it is speculated that the RPE cells may play an important role in this preventive effect of apomorphine. In this study, to clarify the mechanism by which the administration of apomorphine inhibits the proliferation of scleral chondrocytes in vivo, we have investigated the effect of apomorphine on the proliferation of scleral chondrocytes with or without co-cultured RPE cells in vitro. We previously demonstrated that cell proliferation of scleral chondrocytes remarkably increases with co-cultured RPE cells. In this study, we found that apomorphine at concentrations of higher than 2 x 10(-5) M dramatically reduced the growth-stimulatory effect of RPE cells on the scleral chondrocytes, whereas the inhibitory effect of apomorphine on the proliferation of scleral chondrocytes without RPE cells was very little. Our results strongly suggest that apomorphine may reduce the production and/or release of some humoral factors from RPE cells, which stimulate the growth of scleral cells. There is also a possibility that apomorphine reduces the reactivity of scleral cells to the humoral factors released from RPE cells.