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J Gen Physiol. 1977 Dec;70(6):747-70.

Electrical and adaptive properties of rod photoreceptors in Bufo marinus. I. Effects of altered extracellular Ca2+ levels.


The effects of altering extracellular Ca(2+) levels on the electrical and adaptive properties of toad rods have been examined. The retina was continually superfused in control (1.6 mM Ca(2+)) or test ringer's solutions, and rod electrical activity was recorded intracellularly. Low-calcium ringer's (10(-9)M Ca(2+)) superfused for up to 6 min caused a substantial depolarization of the resting membrane potential, an increase in light-evoked response amplitudes, and a change in the waveform of the light-evoked responses. High Ca(2+) ringer's (3.2 mM) hyperpolarized the cell membrane and decreased response amplitudes. However, under conditions of either low or high Ca(2+) superfusion for up to 6 min, in both dark-adapted and partially light-adapted states, receptor sensitivity was virtually unaffected; i.e., the V-log I curve for the receptor potential was always located on the intensity scale at a position predicted by the prevailing light level, not by Ca(2+) concentration. Thus, we speculate that cytosol Ca(2+) concentration is capable of regulating membrane potential levels and light-evoked response amplitudes, but not the major component of rod sensitivity. Low Ca(2+) ringer's also shortened the period of receptor response saturation after a bright but nonbleaching light flash, hence accelerating the onset of both membrane potential and sensitivity recovery during dark adaptation. Exposure of the retina to low Ca(2+) (10(-9)M) ringer's for long periods (7-15 min) caused dark-adapted rods to lose responsiveness. Response amplitudes gradually decreased, and the rods became desensitized. These severe conditions of low Ca(2+) caused changes in the dark-adapted rod that mimic those observed in rods during light adaptation. We suggest that loss of receptor sensitivity during prolonged exposure to low Ca(2+) ringer's results from a decrease of intracellular (intradisk) stores of Ca(2+); i.e., less Ca(2+) is thereby released per quantum catch.

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