Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the elderly population in the western world. The etiology and pathogenesis of this disease remain unclear. However, there is an increasing body of evidence supporting the hypothesis that the macular pigment carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, play an important role in protection against AMD, by filtering out blue light at a pre-receptoral level, or by quenching free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are dietary xanthophyll carotenoids, which are delivered to the retina via plasma lipoproteins. The biological mechanisms governing retinal capture and accumulation of lutein and zeaxanthin, to the exclusion of other carotenoids, are still poorly understood. Although these mechanisms remain unclear, it is possible that selective capture of these carotenoids is related to lipoprotein, or apolipoprotein, function and profile. Xanthophyll-binding proteins appear to play an important role in the retinal capture of the xanthophyll carotenoids. The Pi isoform of GSTP1 has been isolated as a specific binding protein for zeaxanthin. The binding protein responsible for retinal uptake of lutein remains elusive. This article reviews the literature germane to the mechanisms involved in the capture, accumulation and stabilization of lutein and zeaxanthin by the retina, and the processes involved in their transport in serum.