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J Exp Biol. 2001 Sep;204(Pt 17):2921-31.

Modulation of cyclic-nucleotide-gated channels and regulation of vertebrate phototransduction.

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Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 94720, USA.


Cyclic-nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels are crucial for sensory transduction in the photoreceptors (rods and cones) of the vertebrate retina. Light triggers a decrease in the cytoplasmic concentration of cyclic GMP in the outer segments of these cells, leading to closure of CNG channels and hyperpolarization of the membrane potential. Hence, CNG channels translate a chemical change in cyclic nucleotide concentration into an electrical signal that can spread through the photoreceptor cell and be transmitted to the rest of the visual system. The sensitivity of phototransduction can be altered by exposing the cells to light, through adaptation processes intrinsic to photoreceptors. Intracellular Ca(2+) is a major signal in light adaptation and, in conjunction with Ca(2+)-binding proteins, one of its targets for modulation is the CNG channel itself. However, other intracellular signals may be involved in the fine-tuning of light sensitivity in response to cues internal to organisms. Several intracellular signals are candidates for mediating changes in cyclic GMP sensitivity including transition metals, such as Ni(2+) and Zn(2+), and lipid metabolites, such as diacylglycerol. Moreover, CNG channels are associated with protein kinases and phosphatases that catalyze changes in phosphorylation state and allosterically modulate channel activity. Recent studies suggest that the effects of circadian rhythms and retinal transmitters on CNG channels may be mediated by such changes in phosphorylation. The goal of this paper is to review the molecular mechanisms underlying modulation of CNG channels and to relate these forms of modulation to the regulation of light sensitivity.

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