Restoration of the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells to prevent further loss of vision in patients with age-related macular degeneration represents a promising novel treatment modality. Development of RPE transplants, however, requires up to 3 months of cell differentiation. We explored whether the silk protein sericin can induce maturation of primary human retinal pigment epithelial (hRPE) cells. Microarray analysis demonstrated that sericin up-regulated RPE-associated transcripts (RPE65 and CRALBP). Upstream analysis identified the NF-κB pathway as one of the top sericin-induced regulators. ELISA confirmed that sericin stimulates the main NF-κB pathway. Increased levels of RPE-associated proteins (RPE65 and the pigment melanin) in the sericin-supplemented cultures were confirmed by western blot, spectrophotometry and transmission electron microscopy. Sericin also increased cell density and reduced cell death following serum starvation in culture. Inclusion of NF-κB agonists and antagonists in the culture medium showed that activation of the NF-κB pathway appears to be necessary, but not sufficient, for sericin-induced RPE pigmentation. We conclude that sericin promotes pigmentation of cultured primary hRPE cells by activating the main NF-κB pathway. Sericin's potential role in culture protocols for rapid differentiation of hRPE cells derived from embryonic or induced pluripotent stem cells should be investigated.