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Exp Eye Res. 2000 Apr;70(4):441-9.

A potential role for immune complex pathogenesis in drusen formation.

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Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration, Neuroscience Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106, USA.


Drusen are abnormal extracellular deposits that accumulate between the retinal pigmented epithelium and Bruch's membrane and are commonly associated with age-related macular degeneration. Our recent work has identified a number of plasma proteins as molecular components of drusen. Of interest is the fact that many of these drusen-associated molecules are acute phase reactant proteins and some have established roles in mediating immune responsiveness. As immune and inflammatory responses appear to play a role in the formation of other pathologic age-related deposits, we examined the distribution of immunoglobulin molecules and terminal complement complexes at sites of drusen deposition. Here, we report that concentrations of immunoglobulin G and terminal C5b-9 complement complexes are present in drusen. In addition, we observe that retinal pigmented epithelial cells overlying or directly adjacent to drusen, as well as some within apparently normal epithelia, exhibit cytoplasmic immunoreactivity for immunoglobulin and the C5 component of complement. Taken together, these results suggest that drusen biogenesis may be a byproduct of immune responsiveness, and they implicate immune complex-mediated pathogenesis involving retinal pigmented epithelial cells as an initiating event in drusen formation.

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