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Keywords:

  • eye;
  • Golgi;
  • photoreceptor;
  • retina;
  • retinal pigment epithelium, RPE

The diversity of epithelia in the body permits a multitude of organ-specific functions. One of the foremost examples of this is the retinal pigment epithelium. Located between the photoreceptors of the retina and their principal blood supply, the choriocapillaris, the retinal pigment epithelium is critical for the survival and function of retinal photoreceptors. To serve this purpose, the retinal pigment epithelium cell has adapted the classic Golgi-to-cell-surface targeting pathways first described in such prototypic epithelial cell models as the Madin-Darby canine kidney cell, to arrive at a unique distribution of membrane and secreted proteins. More recent data suggest that the retinal pigment epithelium also takes advantage of its inherent asymmetry to augment the classical pathways of Golgi-to-cell-surface traffic. As retinal pigment epithelium transplants and gene therapy represent potential cures for retinal degenerative diseases, understanding the basis of the unique polarity properties of retinal pigment epithelium cells will be a critical issue for the development of future therapies.