Evidence of decreased adhesion between the neural retina and retinal pigmented epithelium of the Mitfvit (vitiligo) mutant mouse

Cell Tissue Res. 1999 Jan;295(1):65-75. doi: 10.1007/s004410051213.


In order for the retina to function properly, photoreceptor cell outer segments must be in contact with the adjacent retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE). A mouse model homozygous for the vitiligo mutation of the microphthalmia (Mitf) gene manifests disruption of the outer segment/RPE interdigitation and demonstrates progressive loss of the photoreceptor cells. The mouse nevertheless has near normal levels of rhodopsin for many weeks and it is not known whether there is an in vivo loss of adhesion or whether the disruption is visible following tissue processing for histology. To assess this, a mechanical separation experiment was performed in which neural retinas were peeled free from the RPE and examined for the amount of pigment adherent to them. The peeling experiment indicated that control neural retinas retained significant amounts of adherent pigment at all ages examined. Neural retinas of mutant mice at age 2 weeks demonstrated adherent pigment, but older animals retained minimal pigment. Scanning electron microscopy indicated that the RPE cells of control mice were markedly damaged upon peeling and displayed different planes of cleavage, whereas those of mutants showed minimal cellular damage upon peeling, suggestive of decreased adhesion. A recombination experiment revealed that the mutant RPE/eyecup could reappose mutant and control retinas under in vitro conditions, suggesting that RPE fluid transport abilities were intact. The data provide the first direct experimental evidence that the Mitfvit mutant mouse has a naturally occurring retinal detachment and hence support its value as a model for studies of retina/RPE adhesion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mutation
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / pathology*
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / genetics
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology*
  • Transcription Factors*
  • Vitiligo / genetics
  • Vitiligo / pathology


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor
  • Mitf protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors