Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in the elderly population. Debris (termed drusen) below the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) have been recognized as a risk factor for dry AMD and its progression to wet AMD, which is characterized by choroidal neovascularization (CNV). The underlying mechanism of how drusen might elicit CNV remains undefined. Cigarette smoking, oxidative damage to the RPE and inflammation are postulated to be involved in the pathophysiology of the disease. To better understand the cellular mechanism(s) linking oxidative stress and inflammation to AMD, we examined the expression of pro-inflammatory monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and anti-angiogenic pigment epithelial derived factor (PEDF) in RPE from smoker patients with AMD. We also evaluated the effects of hydroquinone (HQ), a major pro-oxidant in cigarette smoke on MCP-1, VEGF and PEDF expression in cultured ARPE-19 cells and RPE/choroids from C57BL/6 mice.