Drusenoid maculopathy in rhesus monkeys: autofluorescence, lipofuscin and drusen pathogenesis

  • Peter GourasEmail author
  • Lena Ivert
  • Julie A. Mattison
  • Donald K. Ingram
  • Martha Neuringer
Retinal Disorders



To examine patterns of retinal pigment epithelial autofluorescence and lipofuscin accumulation in relation to drusen and to explore the pathogenesis of drusen in rhesus monkeys.


The macular areas of six rhesus monkeys, euthanized at 19 to 28 years of age, were studied by bright field and fluorescence light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.


There was strong autofluorescence in the retinal epithelium that tended to diminish over drusen. Electron microscopy revealed that all retinal epithelial cells had large concentrations of lipofuscin bodies. The epithelial cells overlying drusen, however, tended to have less lipofuscin than epithelial cells not associated with drusen. Electron microscopy revealed that the epithelial cells overlying drusen were losing segments of cytoplasm containing lipofuscin bodies. Macrophage-like cells were consistently present in Bruch’s membrane microns away from this lipofuscin-containing cytoplasmic material.


Retinal epithelial cells overlying drusen have less lipofuscin than neighboring epithelial cells. The loss of lipofuscin seems due to a loss of cytoplasm containing lipofuscin that contributes to drusen formation. Macrophages in Bruch’s membrane may be responsible for removing this lipofuscin debris. The results support in vivo studies showing reduced autofluorescence over drusen and support the “budding” of epithelial cytoplasm as a source of drusen material.


Macula Age-related macular degeneration Drusen Lipofuscin Autofluorescence Monkey 



We thank Kristy Braun and Hild Kjeldbye for technical assistance and NEI grants EY015293 and RR00163, The Foundation Fighting Blindness and Research to Prevent Blindness Inc. for support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Gouras
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lena Ivert
    • 2
  • Julie A. Mattison
    • 3
  • Donald K. Ingram
    • 4
  • Martha Neuringer
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of OphthalmologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of OphthalmologySt Erik’s Eye Hospital, Karolinska InstituteStockholmSweden
  3. 3.Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology, National Institute on AgingBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Nutritional Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, Pennington Biomedical Research CenterLouisiana State University SystemBaton RougeUSA
  5. 5.Division of Neuroscience, Oregon National Primate Research CenterOregon Health & Science UniversityBeavertonUSA
  6. 6.Department of OphthalmologyOregon Health & Science UniversityBeavertonUSA

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