A continuous cell line of rat retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), named BFEI-1, has been established and characterized. Sheets of pure RPE cells, uncontanimated by choroidal or neural retinal cell types, were isolated from eyes of 7-day-old Long Evans rats and established in primary culture. The primary RPE cells became extensively spread and grew slowly for approximately 1 month, at which time a colony of small rapidly dividing cells spontaneously appeared. Following trypsinization, most of the typical primary RPE cells did not survive and were quickly outnumbered by the smaller cells, which gave rise to a cell line that was grown continuously for several hundred generations. When growing at the maximal rate in media containing 20% FBS (doubling time 18 h), the cells were fibroblastic and nearly devoid of pigment, but were capable of morphologic transition back to a pigmented, epithelioid form when cultured under low serum conditions. Evidence that these cells originated from RPE included specific immunolabeling with antibodies to cellular retinaldehyde binding protein and cytokeratin, negative GFAP immunoreactivity, and demonstration of avid phagocytosis of isolated rod outer segments by these cells. Partial characterization of choroidal cells eliminated the latter cells as possible contaminants which could have given rise to the cell line. The BPEI-1 cell line, and other rat RPE cell lines currently being developed from pigmented normal (LE, RCS rdy+p+) and retinal dystrophic (RCS p+) rats should facilitate biochemical and molecular biological approaches to study of RPE cell function in health and disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology