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J Physiol. 2003 Nov 15;553(Pt 1):125-35. Epub 2003 Sep 18.

Free magnesium concentration in salamander photoreceptor outer segments.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO 80262, USA.


Magnesium ions (Mg2+) play an important role in biochemical functions. In vertebrate photoreceptor outer segments, numerous reactions utilize MgGTP and MgATP, and Mg2+ also regulates several of the phototransduction enzymes. Although Mg2+ can pass through light-sensitive channels under certain conditions, no clear extrusion mechanism has been identified and removing extracellular Mg2+ has no significant effect on the light sensitivity or the kinetics of the photoresponse. We have used the fluorescent Mg2+ dye Furaptra to directly measure and monitor the free Mg2+ concentration in photoreceptor outer segments and examine whether the free Mg2+ concentration changes under physiological conditions. Resting free Mg2+ concentrations in bleached salamander rod and cone photoreceptor cell outer segments were 0.86 +/- 0.06 and 0.81 +/- 0.09 mM, respectively. The outer segment free Mg2+ concentration was not significantly affected by changes in extracellular pH, Ca2+ and Na+, excluding a significant role for the respective exchangers in the regulation of Mg2+ homeostasis. The resting free Mg2+ concentration was also not significantly affected by exposure to 0 Mg2+, suggesting the lack of significant basal Mg2+ flux. Opening the cGMP-gated channels led to a significant increase in the Mg2+ concentration in the absence of Na+ and Ca2+, but not in their presence, indicating that depolarization can cause a significant Mg2+ influx only in the absence of other permeant ions, but not under physiological conditions. Finally, light stimulation did not change the Mg2+ concentration in the outer segments of dark-adapted photoreceptors. The results suggest that there are no influx and efflux pathways that can significantly affect the Mg2+ concentration in the outer segment under physiological conditions. Therefore, it is unlikely that Mg2+ plays a significant role in the dynamic modulation of phototransduction.

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