Frog rod outer segments isolated in suspension can maintain much of their in vivo activity. This observation provides us with a simpler system than the intact retina for correlating biochemical and physiological changes. The relevant physiological process, a decrease of sodium permeability by illumination, is assayed as light suppression of outer segment swelling in a modified Ringer's solution. We report here that this decrease is observed over approximately 4 log units of input light intensity and varies with the logarithm of intensity at light levels which bleach between 5.102 and 5.104 rhodopsin molecules/outer segment-second. In this illumination range responsiveness to light decreases as intensity increases. This sensitivity control system may be linked to light-activated rhodopsin phosphorylation, for inhibitors of this reaction increase light sensitivity. The presence of a second system, which controls the maximum amplitude of in vitro response to light, is revealed in experiments with cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase inhibitors. Papaverine addition raises intracellular cyclic GMP (guanosine monophosphate) levels and increases the magnitude of the dark permeability, but does not have a large influence on the amount of illumination required for suppression of this permeability. The data suggest that sensitivity and amplitude, as they are expressed in this in vitro system, are regulated by pharmacologically distinct pathways which use two different light-sensitive enzyme systems.

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