Located between vessels of the choriocapillaris and light-sensitive outer segments of the photoreceptors, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) closely interacts with photoreceptors in the maintenance of visual function. Increasing knowledge of the multiple functions performed by the RPE improved the understanding of many diseases leading to blindness. This review summarizes the current knowledge of RPE functions and describes how failure of these functions causes loss of visual function. Mutations in genes that are expressed in the RPE can lead to photoreceptor degeneration. On the other hand, mutations in genes expressed in photoreceptors can lead to degenerations of the RPE. Thus both tissues can be regarded as a functional unit where both interacting partners depend on each other.
- Copyright © 2005 the American Physiological Society