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Nature. 1988 Jul 7;334(6177):64-6.

Highly cooperative feedback control of retinal rod guanylate cyclase by calcium ions.

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Department of Cell Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305.


Visual excitation in retinal rod cells is mediated by a cascade that leads to the amplified hydrolysis of cyclic GMP (cGMP) and the consequent closure of cGMP-activated cation-specific channels in the plasma membrane. Recovery of the dark state requires the resynthesis of cGMP, which is catalysed by guanylate cyclase, an axoneme-associated enzyme. The lowering of the cytosolic calcium concentration (Cai) following illumination is thought to be important in stimulating cyclase activity. This hypothesis is supported by the finding that the cGMP content of rod outer segments increases several-fold when Cai is lowered to less than 10 nM. It is evident that cGMP and Cai levels are reciprocally controlled by negative feedback. Guanylate cyclase from toad ROS is strongly stimulated when the calcium level is lowered from 10 microM to 10 nM, but only if they are excited by light. We show here that the guanylate cyclase activity of unilluminated bovine rod outer segments increases markedly (5 to 20-fold) when the calcium level is lowered from 200 nM to 50 nM. This steep dependence of guanylate cyclase activity on the calcium level in the physiological range has a Hill coefficient of 3.9. Stimulation at low calcium levels is mediated by a protein that can be released from the outer segment membranes by washing with a low salt buffer. Calcium sensitivity is partially restored by adding the soluble extract back to the washed membranes. The highly cooperative activation of guanylate cyclase by the light-induced lowering of Cai is likely to be a key event in restoring the dark current after excitation.

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