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Photochem Photobiol. 2007 Jan-Feb;83(1):19-26.

Molecular mechanisms characterizing cone photoresponses.

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Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences, Osaka University, Suita, Japan.


In the vertebrate retina, rods mediate twilight vision and cones mediate daylight vision. Their photoresponse characteristics are different. The light-sensitivity of a cone is 10(2)-10(3) times lower than that of a rod. In addition, the photoresponse time course is much faster in cones. The mechanism characterizing cone photoresponses has not been known mainly because of the difficulty in isolating cones in large quantities to perform biochemistry. Recently, we developed a method to purify cones from carp retina using a density gradient, which made it possible to analyze the differences in the molecular mechanism of phototransduction between rods and cones. The results showed that signal amplification in cones is less effective, which explains the lower light-sensitivity of cones. The results also showed that visual pigment phosphorylation, a quenching mechanism of light-activated visual pigment, is much more rapid in cones than in rods. The rapid phosphorylation in cones is attributed to a very high total kinase activity in cones. Because of this high activity, cone pigment is readily phosphorylated even at very high bleaching levels, which probably explains why cone photoresponses recover quickly. Based on these findings, the molecular mechanisms of the differences in the photoresponse characteristics between rods and cones are outlined.

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