The hydrolysis-resistant GTP analogue GTP-gamma-S was introduced into rods isolated from the retina of the salamander Ambystoma tigrinum to study the origin of the persistent excitation induced by intense bleaching illumination. Dialysis of a dark-adapted rod with a whole-cell patch pipette containing 2 mM GTP-gamma-S resulted in a gradual decrease in circulating current. If the rod was first bleached and its sensitivity allowed to stabilize for at least 30 min, then dialysis with GTP-gamma-S produced a much faster current decay. The circulating current could be restored by superfusion with the phosphodiesterase inhibitor 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine, suggesting that the decay in current originated from persistent excitation of the phosphodiesterase by transducin bound to GTP-gamma-S. We conclude that the persistent excitation which follows bleaching is likely to involve the GTP-binding protein transducin, which mediates the normal photoresponse. This observation suggests that a form of rhodopsin which persists long after bleaching can activate transducin much as does photoisomerized rhodopsin, although with considerably lower gain.

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