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January 1990

Distributions of Elements in the Human Retinal Pigment Epithelium

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1990;108(1):113-117. doi:10.1001/archopht.1990.01070030119041

• Distributions of elements above the atomic number of sodium were mapped in the retinal pigment epithelia of eight human eyes. X-ray energy spectra and maps were collected from cryofixed, freeze-dried, and epoxy-embedded tissues using energy-dispersive x-ray microanalysis. All eyes had high concentrations of phosphorus in the nuclei of retinal pigment epithelial cells. Melanosomes were rich in sulfur, zinc, calcium, and iron. Lipofuscin and cytoplasm contained only phosphorus and sulfur in detectable amounts. Drusen, when present, contained phosphorus and calcium. Six eyes had a prominent aluminum peak recorded from melanosomes, nuclei, and Bruch's membrane. In one pair of 90-year-old eyes, small, electron-dense deposits surrounded many melanosomes and contained mercury and selenium. Retinal pigment epithelial melanosomes may bind and accumulate metals and other potentially toxic ions over time, preventing them from reaching the neural retina.

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