Concerted regulation of retinal pigment epithelium basement membrane and barrier function by angiocrine factors
The outer blood-retina barrier is established through the coordinated terminal maturation of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), fenestrated choroid endothelial cells (ECs) and Bruch's membrane, a highly organized basement membrane that lies between both cell types. Here we study the contribution of choroid ECs to this process by comparing their gene expression profile before (P5) and after (P30) the critical postnatal period when mice acquire mature visual function. Transcriptome analyses show that expression of extracellular matrix-related genes changes dramatically over this period. Co-culture experiments support the existence of a novel regulatory pathway: ECs secrete factors that remodel RPE basement membrane, and integrin receptors sense these changes triggering Rho GTPase signals that modulate RPE tight junctions and enhance RPE barrier function. We anticipate our results will spawn a search for additional roles of choroid ECs in RPE physiology and disease.