Fly photoreceptor membranes were used to test the effect on defined biochemical reactions of light and of compounds causing photoreceptor excitation. Complementary electrophysiological studies examined whether putative second messengers excite the fly photoreceptor cells. This analysis revealed the following sequence of events: photoexcited rhodopsin activates a G protein by facilitating GTP binding. The G protein then activates a phospholipase C that generates inositol trisphosphate, which in turn acts as an internal messenger to bring about depolarization of the photoreceptor cell. Binding assays of GTP analogs and measurements of GTPase activity showed that there are 1.6 million copies of G protein per photoreceptor cell. The GTP binding component is a 41-kDa protein, and the light-activated GTPase is dependent on photoconversion of rhodopsin to metarhodopsin. Analysis of phospholipase C activity revealed that this enzyme is under stringent control of the G protein, that the major product formed is inositol trisphosphate, and that this product is rapidly hydrolyzed by a specific phosphomonoesterase. Introduction of inositol trisphosphate to the intact photoreceptor cell mimics the effect of light, and bisphosphoglycerate, which inhibits inositol trisphosphate hydrolysis, enhances the effects of inositol trisphosphate and of dim light. The interaction of photoexcited rhodopsin with a G protein is thus similar in both vertebrate and invertebrate photoreceptors. These G proteins, however, activate different photoreceptor enzymes: phospholipase C in invertebrates and cGMP phosphodiesterase in vertebrates.
Coupling of photoexcited rhodopsin to inositol phospholipid hydrolysis in fly photoreceptors
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