The uptake of horseradish peroxidase (HRP) into membranous structures, detectable by light and electron microscopy, is used here to monitor the synaptic activity of photoreceptors of isolated frog retinas maintained in the dark or under various illumination conditions. The major findings are: (a) Neurotransmission from photoreceptor terminals seems to involve the same types of endocytic membrane-retrieval processes that occur at other nerve terminals. Presumably, the endocytic processes compensate for exocytic events associated with neurotransmission. The retrieved membrane is "recycled" to form vesicles. Some of these accumulate near the synaptic ribbons, perhaps indicating reutilization for exocytosis. On the other hand, some retrieved membrane evidently is degraded via multivesicular bodies that appear to undergo "retrograde" transport from the receptor synapses to the myoid regions. (b) Photoreceptor terminals take up much HRP in the dark. Steady illumination markedly decreases uptake by rods. Uptake by cones is notably reduced only at illumination intensities higher than those that have maximal effects on rods. (c) The decrease in rod HRP uptake with light is reversible when retinas are allowed to adapt to the dark, if the light exposures used were at intensities that bleach very little visual pigment. Such "recovery" is not observed after light exposures that bleach a considerable amount of visual pigment. The cones recover their dark levels of HRP uptake even after light exposures that bleach considerable amounts of visual pigment. The changes in HRP uptake that we observe parallel expectations for photoreceptor synaptic neurotransmission derived from indirect physiological evidence.

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