In invertebrate photoreceptors, the photopigment exhibits a long-lived and physiologically active photoproduct, called metarhodopsin (M). The long life of invertebrate M implies that under physiological conditions, M and the original pigment state rhodopsin, R, are in photoequilibrium. In many invertebrates, the absorption spectra of R and M states are different, allowing large photopigment conversion between R and M states. These net pigment molecules conversions between R and M are the basis of the prolonged depolarizing afterpotential (PDA) phenomenology, which is the main subject of this review. A large net conversion of R to M disrupts phototransduction termination at the photopigment level, which in turn results in sustained excitation long after the light is turned off. Throughout this period, the photoreceptors are partially desensitized and are insensitive (or less sensitive) to subsequent test lights. In Drosophila, the PDA tests the maximal capacity of the photoreceptor cell to maintain excitation for an extended period and is strictly dependent on the presence of high concentrations of rhodopsin and the transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Therefore, it detects even minor defects in rhodopsin or TRP biogenesis and easily scores deficient replenishment of phototransduction components, which results in temporary desensitization of the phototransduction process. Indeed, the introduction and use of PDA to screen for phototransduction-defective Drosophila mutants by Pak and colleagues yielded a plethora of new and most interesting visual mutants. Remarkably, to this day, the PDA mutants that Pak and his colleagues isolated are the main source of mutants for analysis of the Drosophila visual system.
The History of the Prolonged Depolarizing Afterpotential (PDA) and Its Role in Genetic Dissection of Drosophila Phototransduction
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