The retinal pigment epithelium displays electrical excitability and lateral signal spreading

  • Irina Ignatova (Creator)
  • Roman Frolov (Independent Researcher) (Creator)
  • Soile Nymark (Creator)



    Abstract Background The non-neuronal retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) functions in intimate association with retinal photoreceptors, performing a multitude of tasks critical for maintaining retinal homeostasis and collaborating with retinal glial cells to provide metabolic support and ionic buffering. Accordingly, the RPE has recently been shown to display dynamic properties mediated by an array of ion channels usually more characteristic of astrocytes and excitable cells. The recent discovery of canonical voltage-activated Na+ channels in the RPE and their importance for phagocytosis of photoreceptor outer segments raises a question about their electrogenic function. Here, we performed a detailed electrophysiological analysis related to the functioning of these channels in human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived RPE. Results Our studies examining the electrical properties of the hESC-RPE revealed that its membrane mainly displays passive properties in a broad voltage range, with the exception of depolarization-induced spikes caused by voltage-activated Na+ current (INa). Spike amplitude depended on the availability of INa and spike kinetics on the membrane time constant, and the spikes could be largely suppressed by TTX. Membrane resistance fluctuated rapidly and strongly, repeatedly changing over the course of recordings and causing closely correlated fluctuations in resting membrane potential. In a minority of cells, we found delayed secondary INa-like inward currents characterized by comparatively small amplitudes and slow kinetics, which produced secondary depolarizing spikes. Up to three consecutive delayed inward current waves were detected. These currents could be rapidly and reversibly augmented by applying L-type Ca2+ channel blocker nifedipine to diminish influx of calcium and thus increase gap junctional conductance. Conclusions This work shows, for the first time, that INa and INa-mediated voltage spikes can spread laterally through gap junctions in the monolayer of cells that are traditionally considered non-excitable. Our findings support a potential role of the RPE that goes beyond giving homeostatic support to the retina.
    Koska saatavilla18 huhtik. 2023

    Field of science, Statistics Finland

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