In invertebrate photoreceptors, when the light stimulus results in substantial net transfer of the visual pigment from the rhodopsin (R) to the metarhodopsin (M) state, the ordinary late receptor potential (LRP) is followed by a prolonged depolarizing afterpotential (PDA). The dependence of the amplitude of the PDA on the amount of pigment conversion is strongly supralinear, and the PDA duration also depends on this amount. These observations indicate an interaction among the elements of the PDA induction process and also make possible a test of the range of this interaction. The test consists of a comparison of the PDA after localized pigment conversion, obtained by strong spot illumination, to that after weaker diffuse illumination converting a comparable total amount of pigment. The experiment was performed on the barnacle lateral eye. The effective spot size was measured by the early receptor potential (ERP), in seawater saturated with CO2, which considerably reduced the electrical coupling between the photoreceptors. The ERP was also used to determine whether there is diffusion of R molecules into the illuminated spot. The spot illumination induced a PDA with small amplitude and long duration, while no detectable PDA was induced by the diffuse light. This indicates that the range of the PDA interaction is much smaller than the entire cell. In addition, the ERP results showed that there was no detectable diffusion of R molecules into the illuminated spot area over 30 min. This measurement, with a calculated correction for the microvillar geometry of the photoreceptor, enabled us to put an upper limit on the diffusion coefficient of the pigment molecules in the inact, unfixed barnacle photoreceptor of D less than 6 X 10(-9) cm2 s-1.

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