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eNeuro. 2018 Jun 11;5(3). pii: ENEURO.0144-18.2018. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0144-18.2018. eCollection 2018 May-Jun.

Transducin β-Subunit Can Interact with Multiple G-Protein γ-Subunits to Enable Light Detection by Rod Photoreceptors.

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Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina 27710.
Albert Eye Research Institute, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27710.


The heterotrimeric G-protein transducin mediates visual signaling in vertebrate photoreceptor cells. Many aspects of the function of transducin were learned from knock-out mice lacking its individual subunits. Of particular interest is the knockout of its rod-specific γ-subunit (Gγ1). Two studies using independently generated mice documented that this knockout results in a considerable >60-fold reduction in the light sensitivity of affected rods, but provided different interpretations of how the remaining α-subunit (Gαt) mediates phototransduction without its cognate Gβ1γ1-subunit partner. One study found that the light sensitivity reduction matched a corresponding reduction in Gαt content in the light-sensing rod outer segments and proposed that Gαt activation is supported by remaining Gβ1 associating with other Gγ subunits naturally expressed in photoreceptors. In contrast, the second study reported the same light sensitivity loss but a much lower, only approximately sixfold, reduction of Gαt and proposed that the light responses of these rods do not require Gβγ at all. To resolve this controversy and elucidate the mechanism driving visual signaling in Gγ1 knock-out rods, we analyzed both mouse lines side by side. We first determined that the outer segments of both mice have identical Gαt content, which is reduced ∼65-fold from the wild-type (WT) level. We further demonstrated that the remaining Gβ1 is present in a complex with endogenous Gγ2 and Gγ3 subunits and that these complexes exist in wild-type rods as well. Together, these results argue against the idea that Gαt alone supports light responses of Gγ1 knock-out rods and suggest that Gβ1γ1 is not unique in its ability to mediate vertebrate phototransduction.


G-protein; phototransduction; retinal degeneration; transducin

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