Secretory proteostasis integrates protein synthesis, processing, folding and trafficking pathways that are essential for efficient cellular secretion. For the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), secretory proteostasis is of vital importance for the maintenance of the structural and functional integrity of apical (photoreceptors) and basal (Bruch’s membrane/choroidal blood supply) sides of the environment it resides in. This integrity is achieved through functions governed by RPE secreted proteins, which include extracellular matrix modelling/remodelling, angiogenesis and immune response modulation. Impaired RPE secretory proteostasis affects not only the extracellular environment, but leads to intracellular protein aggregation and ER-stress with subsequent cell death. Ample recent evidence implicates dysregulated proteostasis as a key factor in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, and research aiming to characterise the roles of various proteins implicated in AMD-associated dysregulated proteostasis unveiled unexpected facets of the mechanisms involved in degenerative pathogenesis. This review analyses cellular processes unveiled by the study of the top 200 transcripts most abundantly expressed by the RPE/choroid in the light of the specialised secretory nature of the RPE.

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