PURPOSE: To evaluate the mononuclear cells in the subretinal exudate in Coats' disease. DESIGN: Retrospective case series. METHODS: Five enucleated globes and one cytology sample with Coats' disease and one case of chronic retinal detachment following repair of an open globe injury were examined immunohistochemically to identify the intraretinal and subretinal exudative cells. The two biomarkers were RPE65 for retinal pigment epithelium and CD163 for histiocytes, each tagged with different chromogens, yellow for pigment epithelium and purple for CD163+ monocytes/histiocytes. Expressions were sought of both biomarkers together or singly. A color shift to red in the cells' chromogenic reaction indicated the simultaneous presence of the two biomarkers. RESULTS: The majority of the mononuclear cells in Coats' disease were CD163 (purple) positive, and a minority were RPE65 (yellow) positive. An intermediate number of cells were RPE65/CD163 positive (orange-red). The eye with a chronic retinal detachment had an equal distribution of CD163 positive and RPE65/CD163 positive cells. CONCLUSIONS: The retinal pigment epithelium has several well-delineated phenotypes and functions. In normal visual physiology, the pigment epithelium supports the photoreceptors and participates in their renewal by phagocytosis of the tips of the photoreceptors. The expression of CD163, a feature of hematopoietically derived monocytes, together with RPE65 in the retinal pigment epithelium, supports differentiation toward histiocytes. Yellow staining detached pigment epithelial cells were rare. The presence of histiocytoid pigment epithelium at the level of Bruch's membrane probably also has implications for macular degeneration.