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Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2002 Jul;240(7):551-6. Epub 2002 Jun 20.

Apoptosis-mediating receptor-ligand systems in human retinal pigment epithelial cells.

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Department of Vitreo-Retinal Surgery, Center of Ophthalmology, University of Cologne, Joseph-Stelzmann-Strasse 9, Germany.



To establish new strategies for the treatment of proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), we investigated new members of a recently discovered apoptosis-inducing receptor-ligand system in human retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. TRAIL (Apo2-L) and Apo3-L are capable of inducing cell death via their receptors Trail-R1 to Trail-R4 and TRAMP. The goal of this study was to prove the existence of these new apoptosis-inducing receptors and ligands in RPE cells.


Human RPE cells, cultured or prepared directly from the eye, were examined by RT-PCR. Immunohistochemistry of epiretinal membranes of traumatic PVR was performed for the detection of TRAIL and Trail-R1. Protein expression of Trail-R1 was examined in cultured human RPE cells by western blot. Cell death after TRAIL treatment of human RPE cells was measured by crystal violet staining.


For RPE cells derived directly from the eye, we detected mRNAs of Trail-R2, Trail-R3, TRAIL, and APO3-L, but not Trail-R1, Trail-R4, and TRAMP. All the examined transcripts were detected in human P0 RPE cells in vitro. Immunohistochemical studies on PVR membranes identified TRAIL and Trail-R1. Western blot confirmed the presence of Trail-R1 in cultured human RPE cells. TRAIL failed to kill RPE cells in vitro, but showed a strong synergistic killing effect when coincubated with protein (cycloheximide) or RNA (actinomycin D) synthesis inhibitor.


We detected a novel apoptosis-inducing receptor-ligand system in RPE cells. An induction of apoptosis as a treatment of PVR seems to be possible. Further investigations are needed including an animal model of PVR.

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