Quantification of retinal pigment epithelial phenotypic variation using laser scanning cytometry

Leonard M Hjelmeland, A. Fujikawa, S. L. Oltjen, Zeljka McBride, D. Braunschweig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: Quantifying phenotypic variation at the level of protein expression (variegation) within populations of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells may be important in the study of pathologies associated with this variation. The lack of quantitative methods for examining single cells, however, and the variable presence of pigment and/or lipofuscin complicate this experimental goal. We have applied the technique of laser scanning cytometry (LSC) to paraffin sections of mouse and human eyes to evaluate the utility of LSC for these measurements. Methods: Mouse eyes were perfusion fixed in 4% paraformaldehyde and embedded in paraffin. Postmortem human eyes were fixed and dissected to obtain a 9-mm punch, which was then embedded in paraffin. A laser scanning cytometer equipped with violet, argon, and helium-neon lasers and the detectors for blue, green, and long red were used to record the fluorescence of each individual cell at all three wavelengths. Raw data were recorded and processed using the WinCyte software. Individual nuclei were identified by the fluorescence of the 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI) nuclear counterstain. Next, RPE cells were uniquely identified in the green channel using an anti-retinal pigment epitheliumspecific protein 65 kDa (anti-RPE65) monoclonal antibody with an Alexa Fluor 488-labeled secondary antibody. Mnsuperoxide dismutase (MnSOD) was quantified in the long-red channel using an anti-MnSOD antibody and an Alexa Fluor 647-labeled secondary antibody. MnSOD+ and RPE65+ cells exhibited peaks in the plot of fluorescence intensity versus cell number, which could be characterized by the mean fluorescence intensity (MFI), the coefficient of variation (CV), and the percentage of total RPE cells that were also labeled for MnSOD. Results: RPE cells can be uniquely identified in human and mouse paraffin sections by immunolabeling with anti-RPE65 antibody. A second antigen, such as MnSOD, can then be probed only within this set of RPE. Results are plotted primarily with the population frequency diagram, which can be subdivided into multiple regions. The data collected for each region include the MFI, the CV, and the number of cells that are immunolabeled in that region. Background interference from pigment or autofluorescent material can be successfully overcome by elevating the concentrations of fluorescent secondary antibodies. In the human and mouse eyes, age-related changes in MFI, CV, and percent RPE cells immunolabeled for MnSOD were observed. Conclusions: The extent of the variability of gene expression in RPE cells at the protein level can be quantified by LSC. Relative changes in the MFI, the CV, and/or percentage of RPE cells double labeled for a second antigen quantify the changes observed. The analysis of these data also suggest whether the effects observed are related to local changes in transcription (alterations of CV) or major changes of protein expression (MFI), which are likely to be due to changes in the chromatin structure. The changes of these variables with age suggest that the observed age-related variegation is primarily due to changes in the chromatin structure in individual cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1108-1121
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Vision
StatePublished - 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


Dive into the research topics of 'Quantification of retinal pigment epithelial phenotypic variation using laser scanning cytometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this