The dynamic nature of Bruch's membrane

J. C. Booij, D. C. Baas, J. Beisekeeva, T. G. M. F. Gorgels, A. A. B. Bergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle*Academicpeer-review


Bruch's membrane (BM) is a unique pentalaminar structure, which is strategically located between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the fenestrated choroidal capillaries of the eye. BM is an elastin- and collagen-rich extracellular matrix that acts as a molecular sieve. BM partly regulates the reciprocal exchange of biomolecules, nutrients, oxygen, fluids and metabolic waste products between the retina and the general circulation. Accumulating evidence suggests that the molecular, structural and functional properties of BM are dependent on age, genetic constitution, environmental factors, retinal location and disease state. As a result, part of the properties of BM are unique to each human individual at a given age, and therefore uniquely affect the development of normal vision and ocular disease. The changes occurring in BM with age include increased calcification of elastic fibres, increased cross-linkage of collagen fibres and increased turnover of glycosaminoglycans. In addition, advanced glycation end products (AGES) and fat accumulate in BM. These age-related changes may not only influence the normal age-related health of photoreceptor cells, but also the onset and progression of diseases like retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Undoubtedly, BM is the site of drusen development. Confluent drusen and uncontrolled activation of the complement cascade are most likely the first signs of AMD. Furthermore, the nature of adhesive interactions between the RPE and BM are instrumental in the development of retinal detachments and proliferative retinal disease. Finally, BM is passively or actively involved in a range of other retinal disorders such as Pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE), Sorsby's Fundus Dystrophy and Malattia Leventinese. Here, we review the dynamic nature of Bruch's membrane, from molecule to man, during development, aging and disease. We propose a simple and straightforward nomenclature for BM deposits. Finally, we attempt to correlate recently published mRNA expression profiles of the RPE and choroid with molecular, structural and functional properties of BM. Our review may shed light on the complex involvement of BM in retinal pathology, notably age-related macular degeneration. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalProgress in retinal and eye research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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