Protein synthesis and displacement in photoreceptor and pigment epithelial cells of inbred normal (Fisher) and mutant (RCS) rats with inherited retinal degeneration has been studied by light and electron microscope radioautography. Groups of animals 14, 15, 17, 19, 27, 35, and 50 days of age were injected with amino acids-H3 and killed at subsequent time intervals. In normal rats, radioactive protein synthesized in the rod inner segments was incorporated into outer segment saccules and displaced outward; the total renewal time of outer segments at all ages was approximately 9 days. In RCS photoreceptors, outer segment displacement was slowed from the normal rate before day 17 and at all subsequent stages. Most of the newly synthesized protein appeared to migrate only into the basal third of the outer segments. Labeling of pigment epithelial cells in RCS rats was always heavier than in controls. Labeled protein was displaced as early as 1 hr postinjection from pigment epithelial cell somas into the apical processes, and by 2 hr postinjection was located in the adjacent lamellar whorls characteristic of the mutant rat retina. After 1 day, radioactivity was present in the 14, 15, 17, and 19 day series of RCS rats in the apical third of the outer segment layer (occupied mainly by extra lamellar material) while there were few silver grains in the middle third of the layer (occupied mainly by distal parts of outer segments). The RCS pigment epithelial cells thus have an unusual synthetic role and appear to be a source of the extra lamellar material. Electron microscope examination revealed that many intact pigment epithelial cell processes were incorporated into the large whorls of extra lamellae. In addition, many disorganized outer segment saccules were observed in continuity with longer membranous lamellae and large lamellar whorls. The extra lamellar material therefore appears to be derived from both rod outer segments and pigment epithelial cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.