The Role of Autophagy in the RPE
Autophagy is a normal homeostatic mechanism whereby the cell degrades its own damaged components and recycles the degradation products for continued cell survival. In RPE cells, autophagic machinery, which includes phagosomes and lysosomes, is abundant. Autophagy is essential to the RPE for management of phagocytosed outer segments and for turnover of its own components. Because RPE cells do not divide under normal conditions, autophagy is also important for quality control of intracellular components. Dysregulated autophagy is involved in the pathophysiology of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and photoreceptor loss in retinal detachment. Drugs that inhibit autophagy (eg, chloroquine) lead to RPE and photoreceptor damage.
Excerpted from BCSC 2020-2021 series: Section 2 - Fundamentals and Principles of Ophthalmology. For more information and to purchase the entire series, please visit https://www.aao.org/bcsc.