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Mol Endocrinol. 2011 Feb;25(2):360-72. doi: 10.1210/me.2010-0392. Epub 2011 Jan 14.

Research resource: nuclear receptor atlas of human retinal pigment epithelial cells: potential relevance to age-related macular degeneration.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27710, USA.


Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells play a vital role in retinal physiology by forming the outer blood-retina barrier and supporting photoreceptor function. Retinopathies including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) involve physiological and pathological changes in the epithelium, severely impairing the retina and effecting vision. Nuclear receptors (NRs), including peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor and liver X receptor, have been identified as key regulators of physiological pathways such as lipid metabolic dysregulation and inflammation, pathways that may also be involved in development of AMD. However, the expression levels of NRs in RPE cells have yet to be systematically surveyed. Furthermore, cell culture lines are widely used to study the biology of RPE cells, without knowledge of the differences or similarities in NR expression and activity between these in vitro models and in vivo RPE. Using quantitative real-time PCR, we assessed the expression patterns of all 48 members of the NR family plus aryl hydrocarbon receptor and aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator in human RPE cells. We profiled freshly isolated cells from donor eyes (in vivo), a spontaneously arising human cell line (in vitro), and primary cell culture lines (in vitro) to determine the extent to which NR expression in the cultured cell lines reflects that of in vivo. To evaluate the validity of using cell culture models for investigating NR receptor biology, we determined transcriptional activity and target gene expression of several moderately and highly expressed NRs in vitro. Finally, we identified a subset of NRs that may play an important role in pathobiology of AMD.

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