Light-evoked changes in pigment epithelial cell membrane potentials and retinal extracellular potassium ion concentration, [K+]0, were measured in an in vitro frog retina-pigment epithelium-choroid preparation. Light stimuli hyperpolarized the apical membrane of the pigment epithelium. Through an electrical shunt pathway connecting the apical and basal membranes, the basal membrane also hyperpolarized, but to a lesser degree than the apical membrane. This differential hyperpolariation of the two membranes increased the transepithelial potential (TEP). This increase in TEP was shown to be the major voltage source of the c-wave of the electroretinogram (ERG). Direct measurement of [K+]0 in the distal retina, made with K+-specific microelectrodes, showed a light-evoked decrease in [K+]0 having an identical time course to the apical hyperpolarization. There was a linear relationship between the light-evoked change in TEP and the logarithm of [K+]0. This exact relationship was also found when the apical membrane was perfused directly with solutions of varying [K+]0. The change in TEP associated with the ERC c-wave, therefore, was explained solely by the response of the pigment epithelium to the light-evoked decrease in [K+]0 in the distal retina.

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