Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Cell Biology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Isolation and characterization of a spontaneously immortalized bovine retinal pigmented epithelial cell line

Thomas E Liggett12, T Daniel Griffiths3 and Elizabeth R Gaillard14*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA

2 Current address: Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL, USA

3 Department of Biological Sciences, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA

4 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-33

Published: 4 May 2009



The Retinal Pigmented Epithelium (RPE) is juxtaposed with the photoreceptor outer segments of the eye. The proximity of the photoreceptor cells is a prerequisite for their survival, as they depend on the RPE to remove the outer segments and are also influenced by RPE cell paracrine factors. RPE cell death can cause a progressive loss of photoreceptor function, which can diminish vision and, over time, blindness ensues. Degeneration of the retina has been shown to induce a variety of retinopathies, such as Stargardt's disease, Cone-Rod Dystrophy (CRD), Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Fundus Flavimaculatus (FFM), Best's disease and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). We have cultured primary bovine RPE cells to gain a further understanding of the mechanisms of RPE cell death. One of the cultures, named tRPE, surpassed senescence and was further characterized to determine its viability as a model for retinal diseases.


The tRPE cell line has been passaged up to 150 population doublings and was shown to be morphologically similar to primary cells. They have been characterized to be of RPE origin by reverse transcriptase PCR and immunocytochemistry using the RPE-specific genes RPE65 and CRALBP and RPE-specific proteins RPE65 and Bestrophin. The tRPE cells are also immunoreactive to vimentin, cytokeratin and zonula occludens-1 antibodies. Chromosome analysis indicates a normal diploid number. The tRPE cells do not grow in suspension or in soft agar. After 3H thymidine incorporation, the cells do not appear to divide appreciably after confluency.


The tRPE cells are immortal, but still exhibit contact inhibition, serum dependence, monolayer growth and secrete an extra-cellular matrix. They retain the in-vivo morphology, gene expression and cell polarity. Additionally, the cells endocytose exogenous melanin, A2E and purified lipofuscin granules. This cell line may be a useful in-vitro research model for retinal maculopathies.