The outer segments of vertebrate rod photoreceptor cells consist of an ordered stack of membrane disks, which, except for a few nascent disks at the base of the outer segment, is surrounded by a separate plasma membrane. Previous studies indicate that the protein, peripherin or peripherin/rds, is localized along the rim of mature disks of rod outer segments. A mutation in the gene for this protein has been reported to be responsible for retinal degeneration in the rds mouse. In the present study, we have shown by immunogold labeling of rat and ground squirrel retinas that peripherin/rds is present in the disk rims of cone outer segments as well as rod outer segments. Additionally, in the basal regions of rod and cone outer segments, where disk morphogenesis occurs, we have found that the distribution of peripherin/rds is restricted to a region that is adjacent to the cilium. Extension of its distribution from the cilium coincides with the formation of the disk rim. These results support the model of disk membrane morphogenesis that predicts rim formation to be a second stage of growth, after the first stage in which the ciliary plasma membrane evaginates to form open nascent disks. The results also indicate how the proteins of the outer segment plasma membrane and the disk membranes are sorted into their separate domains: different sets of proteins may be incorporated into membrane outgrowths during different growth stages of disk morphogenesis. Finally, the presence of peripherin/rds protein in both cone and rod outer segment disks, together with the phenotype of the rds mouse, which is characterized by the failure of both rod and cone outer segment formation, suggest that the same rds gene is expressed in both types of photoreceptor cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.