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The role of the retinal pigment epithelium in eye growth regulation and myopia: A review


Myopia is increasing in prevalence world-wide, nearing epidemic proportions in some populations. This has led to expanded research efforts to understand how ocular growth and refractive errors are regulated. Eye growth is sensitive to visual experience, and is altered by both form deprivation and optical defocus. In these cases, the primary targets of growth regulation are the choroidal and scleral layers of the eye that demarcate the boundary of the posterior vitreous chamber. Of significance to this review are observations of local growth modulation that imply that the neural retina itself must be the source of growth-regulating signals. Thus the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), interposed between the retina and the choroid, is likely to play a critical role in relaying retinal growth signals to the choroid and sclera. This review describes the ion transporters and signal receptors found in the chick RPE and their possible roles in visually driven changes in eye growth. We focus on the effects of four signaling molecules, otherwise implicated in eye growth changes (dopamine, acetylcholine, vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), and glucagon), on RPE physiology, including fluid transport. A model for RPE-mediated growth regulation is proposed.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Christine Wildsoet, School of Optometry, 588 Minor Hall, University of California—Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-2020, USA. E-mail:
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