Retinal pigment epithelium

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Template:Infobox Anatomy Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


The retinal pigment epithelium is the pigmented cell layer just outside the neurosensory retina that nourishes retinal visual cells, and is firmly attached to the underlying choroid and overlying retinal visual cells.[1][2]


The RPE is composed of a single layer of hexagonal cells that are densely packed with pigment granules.[1]

When viewed from the outer surface, these cells are smooth and hexagonal in shape. When seen in section, each cell consists of an outer non-pigmented part containing a large oval nucleus and an inner pigmented portion which extends as a series of straight thread-like processes between the rods, this being especially the case when the eye is exposed to light.


The retinal pigment epithelium is involved in the phagocytosis of the outer segment of photoreceptor cells and it is also involved in the vitamin A cycle where it isomerizes all trans retinol to 11-cis retinal.

The retinal pigment eptihelium also serves as the limiting transport factor that maintains the retinal environment by supplying small molecules such as amina acid, ascorbic acid and D-glucose while remaining a tight barrier to choroidal blood borne substances. Homeostasis of the ionic environment is maintained by a delicate transport exchange system.


In the eyes of albinos, the cells of this layer contain no pigment.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cassin, B. and Solomon, S. (2001). Dictionary of eye terminology. Gainesville, Fla: Triad Pub. Co. ISBN 0-937404-63-2.
  2. Boyer MM, Poulsen GL, Nork TM. "Relative contributions of the neurosensory retina and retinal pigment epithelium to macular hypofluorescence." Arch Ophthalmol. 2000 Jan;118(1):27-31. PMID 10636410.

See also

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