Calcium-independent Regulation of Pigment Granule Aggregation and Dispersion in Teleost Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells




King-Smith, Christina
Chen, Paul
Garcia, Dana M.
Rey, Homero
Burnside, Beth

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The Company of Biologists Limited


In the eyes of teleosts and amphibians, melanin pigment granules of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) migrate in response to changes in light conditions. In the light, pigment granules disperse into the cells' long apical projections, thereby shielding the rod photoreceptor outer segments and reducing their extent of bleach. In darkness, pigment granules aggregate towards the base of the RPE cells. In vitro, RPE pigment granule aggregation can be induced by application of nonderivatized cAMP, and pigment granule dispersion can be induced by cAMP washout. In previous studies based on RPE-retina cocultures, extracellular calcium was found to influence pigment granule migration. To examine the role of calcium in regulation of RPE pigment granule migration in the absence of retinal influences, we have used isolated RPE sheets and dissociated, cultured RPE cells. Under these conditions depletion of extracellular or intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]o, [Ca2+]i) had no effect on RPE pigment granule aggregation or dispersion. Using the intracellular calcium dye fura-2 and a new dye, fura-pe3, to monitor calcium dynamics in isolated RPE cells, we found that [Ca2+]i did not change from basal levels when pigment granule aggregation was triggered by cAMP, or dispersion was triggered by cAMP washout. Also, no change in [Ca2+]i was detected when dispersion was triggered by cAMP washout in the presence of 10 μM dopamine, a treatment previously shown to enhance dispersion. In addition, elevation of [Ca2+]i by addition of ionomycin neither triggered pigment movements, nor interfered with pigment granule motility elicited by cAMP addition or washout. Since other studies have indicated that actin plays a role in both pigment granule dispersion and aggregation in RPE, our findings suggest that RPE pigment granule migration depends on an actin-based motility system that is not directly regulated by calcium.



RPE, pigment granule migration, calcium, Fura-pe3, Biology


King-Smith, C., P. Chen, D. M. García, H. Rey and B. Burnside. 1996. Calcium- independent regulation of pigment granule aggregation and dispersion in teleost retinal pigment epithelial cells. Journal of Cell Science, 109(1), pp. 33-43.


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© 1996 The Company of Biologists Limited

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