Immunohistochemical techniques were used to identify cells containing cytokeratins in sections or tissue-culture monolayers from ocular (reference) tissues and also from 22 epiretinal membranes obtained during closed microsurgery for macular pucker or massive preretinal retraction. Results of cytokeratin immunostaining in reference tissues indicated that this is a valuable means of determining the contribution and distribution of epithelial cells in epiretinal membranes, and that the epithelial cells in the membranes were probably derived from the retinal pigment epithelium. Epithelial cells were identified in 17 of the 22 epiretinal membranes, but they did not usually constitute the predominant cell type. We concluded that the fibroblasts or fibroblast-like cells thought to be responsible for the contraction of epiretinal membranes are seldom of retinal pigment epithelial origin. Biomicroscopic pigmentation of a membrane was shown to be a poor guide to its epithelial cell population.
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