- Defects in energy metabolism in either the retina or the immediately adjacent retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) underlie retinal degeneration, but the metabolic dependence between retina and RPE remains unclear. Nitrogen-containing metabolites such as amino acids are essential for energy metabolism. Here, we found that 15N-labeled ammonium is predominantly assimilated into glutamine in both the retina and RPE/choroid ex vivo. [15N]Ammonium tracing in vivo show that, like the brain, the retina can synthesize asparagine from ammonium, but RPE/choroid and the liver cannot.
- The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a monolayer of pigmented cells between the choroid and the retina. RPE dysfunction underlies many retinal degenerative diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of age-related blindness. To perform its various functions in nutrient transport, phagocytosis of the outer segment, and cytokine secretion, the RPE relies on an active energy metabolism. We previously reported that human RPE cells prefer proline as a nutrient and transport proline-derived metabolites to the apical, or retinal, side.