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Experimental eye enlargement in mature animals changes the retinal pigment epithelium



Form deprivation has been shown to result in myopia in a number of species such that the eye enlarges if one eye is permanently closed at the time of eye opening. In the quokka wallaby, the eye grows slowly throughout life. After form deprivation, the eye enlarges by 1–1.5 years of age to the size of that in a 4–6-year-old animal and the number of multinucleated retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in the enlarged retina remains much lower than would be expected in eyes of comparable size. Here we have repeated the experiment but examined animals at 4 years of age. The sutured eye grew significantly larger than did its partner. Numbers of RPE cells were comparable between sutured and partner eyes but were lower than in normal animals of similar age. Reductions in RPE cell density were greater in nasal than in dorsal or ventral retina and were not seen in temporal retina. The distribution of multinucleated cells was quite different in the sutured and open eyes. As in normal eyes, partner eyes had most multinucleated cells in ventral retina, while in the sutured eyes such cells were located mainly in the far periphery. In conclusion, the RPE is significantly changed by the eye enlargement process. However, it is not known whether this change results from an active part played by the RPE in the retinal expansion process or whether the changes are simply a result of a passive increase in area of the RPE.


Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to: Alison M. Harman, Department of Psychology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, WA 6907, Australia. E-mail:



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