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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Volume 20, Issue 3, February 2019.

The published version is available at Copyright © Léveillard et al.


The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) forms the outer blood⁻retina barrier and facilitates the transepithelial transport of glucose into the outer retina via GLUT1. Glucose is metabolized in photoreceptors via the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) but also by aerobic glycolysis to generate glycerol for the synthesis of phospholipids for the renewal of their outer segments. Aerobic glycolysis in the photoreceptors also leads to a high rate of production of lactate which is transported out of the subretinal space to the choroidal circulation by the RPE. Lactate taken up by the RPE is converted to pyruvate and metabolized via OXPHOS. Excess lactate in the RPE is transported across the basolateral membrane to the choroid. The uptake of glucose by cone photoreceptor cells is enhanced by rod-derived cone viability factor (RdCVF) secreted by rods and by insulin signaling. Together, the three cells act as symbiotes: the RPE supplies the glucose from the choroidal circulation to the photoreceptors, the rods help the cones, and both produce lactate to feed the RPE. In age-related macular degeneration this delicate ménage à trois is disturbed by the chronic infiltration of inflammatory macrophages. These immune cells also rely on aerobic glycolysis and compete for glucose and produce lactate. We here review the glucose metabolism in the homeostasis of the outer retina and in macrophages and hypothesize what happens when the metabolism of photoreceptors and the RPE is disturbed by chronic inflammation.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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