Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the primary cause of vision loss in the western world (Friedman et al., Arch Ophthalmol 122:564-572, 2004). The first clinical indication of AMD is the presence of drusen. However, with age and prior to the formation of drusen, extracellular basal deposits accumulate between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and Bruch's membrane (BrM). Many studies on the molecular composition of the basal deposits and drusen have demonstrated the presence of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, complement components and cellular debris. The evidence reviewed here suggests that alteration in RPE cell function might be the primary cause for the accumulation of ECM and cellular debri found in basal deposits. Further studies are obviously needed in order to unravel the specific pathways that lead to abnormal formation of ECM and complement activation.