A Drosophila mutant (ninaAP228) that is low in rhodopsin concentration but identical to the wild-type fly in photoreceptor morphology has been isolated. R1-6 photoreceptors of the mutant differ from those of wild type in that (a) the prolonged depolarizing afterpotential (PDA) is absent, (b) concentrations of rhodopsin and opsin are substantially reduced, and (c) intramembrane particle density in the membranes of the rhabdomeres is low. Each of these traits is mimicked by depriving wild-type flies of vitamin A. The ninaAP228 mutation differs from vitamin A deprivation in that in the mutant (a) the rhabdomeric membrane particle density is reduced only in the R1-6 photoreceptors and not in R7 or R8, (b) the PDA can be elicited from the R7 photoreceptors, and (c) photoconversion of R1-6 rhodopsin to metarhodopsin by ultraviolet (UV) light is considerably more efficient than in vitamin A-deprived flies. The absorption properties of the mutant rhodopsin in the R1-6 photoreceptors appear to be identical to those of wild type as judged from rhodopsin difference spectra. The results suggest that the mutation affects the opsin, rather than the chromophore, component of rhodopsin molecules in the R1-6 photoreceptors. The interaction between the chromophore and R1-6 opsin, however, appears to be normal.

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