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Vision Res. 2006 Jul;46(14):2287-97. Epub 2006 Feb 13.

Late stages of visual pigment photolysis in situ: cones vs. rods.

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Institute for Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry, Russian Academy of Sciences, 44 Thorez prospect, 194223 St. Petersburg, Russia.


Slow photolysis reactions and the regeneration of the dark pigment constitute the mechanisms of dark adaptation whereby photoreceptor cells restore their sensitivity after bright illumination. We present data on the kinetics of the late stages of the photolysis of the visual pigment in intact rods and red- and green-sensitive cones of the goldfish retina. Measurements were made on single photoreceptors by means of a fast-scanning dichroic microspectrophotometer. We show that in cones the hydrolysis of the opsin-all-trans 3-dehydroretinal linkage proceeds with a half-time of approximately 5s at 20 degrees C that is almost two orders of magnitude faster than in rods. 3-Dehydroretinol in cones is produced approximately 3-fold faster than retinol in amphibian rhodopsin rods; the rate of the reaction is limited by the speed of retinal reduction catalyzed by retinoldehydrogenase. The fast hydrolysis of the 3-dehydroretinal/opsin Schiff base and the correspondingly fast appearance of the substrates for dark visual pigment regeneration (free opsin and 3-dehydroretinol) provide essential conditions for faster dark adaptation of cone (diurnal) as compared to rod (nocturnal) vision.

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