Macular telangiectasia Type 2 (MacTel) causes glial and photoreceptor cell death in a small, oval patch in the central retina. Beyond this oval area, no disease manifestations have been described so far. Here, we describe a novel pathological aspect of MacTel in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) that is not restricted to the clinically affected area but covers the entire retina.Methods:
We have studied postmortem eyes from four patients with MacTel by immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy.Results:
We found cellular debris in the subretinal space (between photoreceptor outer segments and RPE), consisting mainly of outer segments and RPE components. In healthy eyes, the RPE normally phagocytoses the tips of the continuously growing outer segments, a process considered to be essential for photoreceptor survival. However, in the patients with MacTel, we found no evidence of ongoing outer segment phagocytosis, and the apical surface of the RPE appeared abnormal throughout most of the retina.Conclusion:
Reduced outer segment phagocytosis may explain the accumulating debris in the subretinal space but is a surprising finding because visual function in the peripheral retina is normal in patients with MacTel. Nevertheless, the subclinical pathology might induce a specific stress to which the central area is uniquely susceptible.