It has been suggested that human iris pigment epithelial (IPE) cells isolated from iridectomized tissue could be used as autologous cells for transplantation into the subretinal space in diseases with dysfunctional retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). RPE cells synthesize a number of cytokines and their receptors which are important for its proper function. Nearly nothing is known about the capacity of IPE to synthesize cytokines or responding to them. To compare the mRNA expression of 36 cytokines or their receptors in cultured adult IPE cells and RPE cells we used semi- quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reactions (RT-PCR). Included in our assay were cytokines with known expression in RPE to get a broad basis for comparing IPE cells: basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF or FGF-2), and one of its receptor (FGFR-1), epidermal growth factor (EGF), and its receptor EGF-R, transforming growth factor β (TGFβ), and its type III receptor TGFβ-R3, the platelet-derived growth factors and receptors (PDGF A, PDGF B, PDGF-Rα, PDGF-Rβ), tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), and two receptors TNF-R1 and TNF-R2, insulin (INS) with receptor INS-R, insulin-like growth factors (IGF1, IGF2), and receptors (IGF1R, IGF2-R), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and two receptors (VEGF-R1 or FLT-1 and VEGF-R2 or FLK-1), the receptor for VEGF-C: VEGF-R3 or FLK-4, interleukin 6 (IL6), and its receptor (IL6-R), nerve growth factor (NGF), interleukin 1α (IL1α), and a receptor (IL1-R). In addition, cytokines or their receptors not known to be expressed in RPE were included tO widen our picture of cytokine gene expression in the eye: stem cell factor (SCF), its receptor (SCF-R), low-affinity nerve growth factor receptor p75 (p75(NGF-R), ciliary neutrothropic factor (CNTF), and its receptor (CNTF-R), glycoprotein 130 interleukin 6 transducer (gp130 (IL6-SD), leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), and its receptor (LIF-R). Semiquantitative expression data were obtained using series of fivefold dilutions of each cDNA and a fixed number of PCR cycles. The expression of RPE 65, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), and β2-microglobulin (B2MG) was used as a control for Cellular origin, RNA quality and PCR conditions. With the exception of insulin and tumor necrosis factor α all other cytokines analysed and their receptors were expressed in both IPE and RPE cells, even though the levels varied. No qualitative or quantitative difference were observed in the mRNA expression level of 34 (94%) of the cytokines or receptors between IPE and RPE. In contrast, the mRNA expression level of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 [VEGF-RS (FLK-1)] was lower in IPE than in RPE cells. As an increased expression of VEGF in the RPE in maculae with age-related macular disease could be involved in its pathogenesis, a decreased expression of angiogenic growth factors in IPE cells could possibly be beneficial for the therapy of age-related maculopathy if indeed other tasks of non-functional RPE cells could be performed by IPE cells. The similarity of the mRNA expression pattern in 94% of the cytokines analyzed supports the assumption that IPE cells potentially can perform functions of RPE cells in the appropriate environment.