The nss (no steady state) phototransduction mutant of the sheep blowfly Lucilia was studied electrophysiologically using intracellular recordings. The effects of the nss mutation on the receptor potential are manifested in the following features of the light response. (a) The responses to a flash or to dim lights are close to normal, but the receptor potential decays close to the baseline level during prolonged illumination after a critical level of light intensity is reached. (b) The decline of the response is accompanied by a large reduction in responsiveness to light that recovers within 20 s in the dark. (c) The full reduction in responsiveness to light is reached when approximately 13% of the photopigment molecules are converted from rhodopsin (R) to metarhodopsin (M). (d) A maximal net pigment conversion from R to M by blue light induces persistent inactivation in the dark, without an apparent voltage response. This inactivation could be abolished at any time by M-to-R conversion with orange light. The above features of the mutant indicate that the effect of the nss mutation on the light response of Lucilia is very similar to the effects of the transient receptor potential (trp) mutation on the photoreceptor potential of Drosophila. Noise analysis and voltage measurements indicate that the decay of the receptor potential is due to a severe reduction in the rate of occurrence of the elementary voltage responses (bumps). The bumps are only slightly modified in shape and amplitude during the decline of the response to light of medium intensity. There is also a large increase in response latency during intense background illumination. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that separate, independent mechanisms determine bump triggering and bump shape and amplitude. The nss mutation affects the triggering mechanism of the bump.

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