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J Neurosci. 2011 Jun 1;31(22):8067-77. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0174-11.2011.

G-protein betagamma-complex is crucial for efficient signal amplification in vision.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


A fundamental question of cell signaling biology is how faint external signals produce robust physiological responses. One universal mechanism relies on signal amplification via intracellular cascades mediated by heterotrimeric G-proteins. This high amplification system allows retinal rod photoreceptors to detect single photons of light. Although much is now known about the role of the α-subunit of the rod-specific G-protein transducin in phototransduction, the physiological function of the auxiliary βγ-complex in this process remains a mystery. Here, we show that elimination of the transducin γ-subunit drastically reduces signal amplification in intact mouse rods. The consequence is a striking decline in rod visual sensitivity and severe impairment of nocturnal vision. Our findings demonstrate that transducin βγ-complex controls signal amplification of the rod phototransduction cascade and is critical for the ability of rod photoreceptors to function in low light conditions.

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