The accumulation of lipofuscin in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) has been implicated in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in humans. The exact composition of lipofuscin is not known but its best characterized component is N-retinylidene-N-retinylethanolamine (A2E), a byproduct of the retinoid visual cycle. Utilizing our recently developed matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization imaging mass spectrometry (MALDI-IMS)-based technique to determine the spatial distribution of A2E, this study compares the relationships of lipofuscin fluorescence and A2E in the murine and human RPE on representative normal tissue. To identify molecules with similar spatial patterns, the images of A2E and lipofuscin were correlated with all the individual images in the MALDI-IMS dataset. In the murine RPE, there was a remarkable correlation between A2E and lipofuscin. In the human RPE, however, minimal correlation was detected. These results were reflected in the marked distinctions between the molecules that spatially correlated with the images of lipofuscin and A2E in the human RPE. While the distribution of murine lipofuscin showed highest similarities with some of the known A2E-adducts, the composition of human lipofuscin was significantly different. These results indicate that A2E metabolism may be altered in the human compared to the murine RPE.
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