The cytoskeleton in squid photoreceptor microvilli was studied by freeze-substitution electron microscopy combined with rapid freezing using liquid helium, under dark-adapted and light-illuminated conditions. In the dark-adapted microvilli, actin filaments were regularly associated with granular structures on their surface; these granular structures were cross-linked to the rhodopsin-bearing plasma membranes through slender strands. Upon exposure to light, the granular components detached from the actin filaments, which then appeared to be fragmented and/or depolymerized. These observations have led us to conclude that light stimulation triggers the breakdown of the microvillar actin filament complex in squid photoreceptor cells. The results are discussed with special reference to the physiological role of actin filaments in photoreception.

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