Vertebrate rod photoreceptors in the dark maintain an inward current across the outer segment membrane. The photoresponse results from a light-induced suppression of this dark current. The light-regulated current is not sensitive to either tetrodotoxin or amiloride, potent blockers of Na+ channels. Here, we report that a derivative of amiloride, 3',4'-dichlorobenzamil (DCPA), completely suppresses the dark current and light response recorded from rod photoreceptors. DCPA also blocks a cyclic GMP-activated current in excised patches of rod plasma membrane and a cGMP-induced Ca++ flux from rod disk membranes. These results are consistent with the notion that the Ca++ flux mechanism in the disk membrane and the light-regulated conductance in the plasma membrane are identical. DCPA also inhibits the Na/Ca exchange mechanism in intact rods, but at a 5-10-fold-higher concentration than is required to block the cGMP-activated flux and current. The blocking action of DCPA in 10 nM Ca++ is different from that in 1 mM Ca++, which suggests either that the conductance state of the light-regulated channel may be modified in high and low concentrations of Ca++, or that there may be two ionic channels in the rod outer segment membrane.

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