Our previous studies have shown that a breakdown in tight junctions in the dystrophic retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of Royal College of Surgeons' rats is accompanied by changes in intramembrane structure which suggest a redistribution of intramembrane particles. We have now investigated, using the p-nitrophenyl phosphate technique, the possibility that a specific membrane protein, Na-K-ATPase, is redistributed as tight junctions break down in the dystrophic RPE. In the normal RPE, Na-K-ATPase activity is restricted to the apical membrane. Junctional membranes and membranes around phagosomes are free of enzyme activity, suggesting a segregation of the transport enzyme from the Junctional and phagocytic membrane. In the dystrophic RPE, prior to changes in tight junctions, enzyme activity is restricted to the apical membrane. During the initial stages of Junctional breakdown, Junctional membranes and membranes around cytoplasmic inclusions are also labelled. As the breakdown progresses, Na-K-ATPase activity is often present laterally and basolaterally and is sometimes absent apically. Enzyme activity is seen basally only where RPE cells have detached from Bruch's membrane and are superimposed over each other. These changes suggest that Na-K-ATPase redistributes during junctional breakdown, but that attachments between the RPE and Bruch's membrane may restrict the redistribution. The apparent reduction of enzyme activity apically suggests that active transport across the dystrophic RPE may be reduced as the tight junctions break down.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology