The effects of the intracellular iontophoretic injection of Na+ ions have been quantitatively compared with adaptation in ventral photoreceptors of Limulus. We find that: (a) both light adaptation and sodium injection are associated with a decrease in the variability of the threshold response amplitued; (b) both light adaptation and sodium injection are associated with a decrease in the absolute value of the temporal dispersion of the threshold response time delay; (c) the same template curve adequately fits the intensity response relationships measured under light adaptation and Na+ injection; (d) both light adaptation and Na+ injection produce a fourfold decrease in response time delay for a desensitization of 3 log units; (e) the time coures of light adaptation and dark adaptation is significantly faster than the onset of and recovery from desensitization produced by Na+ injection; (f) unlike local illumination, Na+ injection does not produce localized desensitization of the photoreceptor. These findings suggest that a rise in intracellular Na+ concentration makes at most only a minor contribution (probably less than 5%) to the total adaptation of these receptors in the intensity range we have examined (up to 3 log units above absolute threshold). However, changes in intracellular Na+ concentration may contribute to certain components of light and dark adaptation in these receptors.

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