We describe the first extensive study of voltage-clamp current responses of cone photoreceptors in unlabeled, dark-adapted mouse retina using only the position and appearance of cone somata as a guide. Identification was confirmed from morphology after dye filling. Photocurrents recorded from wild-type mouse cones were biphasic with a fast cone component and a slower rod component. The rod component could be eliminated with dim background light and was not present in mouse lines lacking the rod transducin-α subunit (Gnat1−/−) or connexin 36 (Cx36−/−). Cones from Gnat1−/− or Cx36−/− mice had resting membrane potentials between −45 and −55 mV, peak photocurrents of 20–25 picoamps (pA) at a membrane potential Vm = −50 mV, sensitivities 60–70 times smaller than rods, and a total membrane capacitance two to four times greater than rods. The rate of activation (amplification constant) was largely independent of the brightness of the flash and was 1–2 s−2, less than half that of rods. The role of Ca2+-dependent transduction modulation was investigated by recording from cones in mice lacking rod transducin (Gnat1), recoverin, and/or the guanylyl-cyclase–activating proteins (GCAPs). In confirmation of previous results, responses of Gnat1−/−;Gcaps−/− cones and triple-mutant Gnat1−/−;Gcaps−/−;Rv−/− cones recovered more slowly both to light flashes and steps and were more sensitive than cones expressing the GCAPs. Cones from all four mouse lines showed significant recovery and escaped saturation even in bright background light. This recovery occurred too rapidly to be caused by pigment bleaching or metaII decay and appears to reflect some modulation of response inactivation in addition to those produced by recoverin and the GCAPs. Our experiments now make possible a more detailed understanding of the cellular physiology of mammalian cone photoreceptors and the role of conductances in the inner and outer segment in producing cone light responses.

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