The Drosophila and Lucilia photoreceptor mutants, trp and nss, respond like wild-type flies to a short pulse of intense light or prolonged dim light; however, upon continuous intense illumination, the trp and nss mutants are unable to maintain persistent excitation. This defect manifests itself by a decline of the receptor potential toward baseline during prolonged intense illumination with little change in the shape or amplitude of the quantal responses to single photons (quantum bumps). Previous work on the trp and nss mutants suggests that a negative feedback loop may control the rate of bump production. Chemical agents affecting different steps of the phototransduction cascade were used in conjunction with light to identify a possible branching point of the feedback loop and molecular stages which are affected by the mutation. Fluoride ions, which in the dark both excite and adapt the photoreceptors of wild-type flies, neither excite nor adapt the photoreceptors of the trp and nss mutants. The hydrolysis-resistant analogue, GTP gamma S, which excites the photoreceptors of wild-type flies, resulting in noisy depolarization, markedly reduces the light response of both mutant flies. Intracellular recordings revealed, however, that the inhibitory effect of GTP gamma S on the nss mutant was accompanied neither by any significant depolarization nor by an increase in the noise, and thus was very different from the effect of a dim background light. The combination of inositol trisphosphate and diphosphoglycerate (InsP3 + DPG), which efficiently excites the photoreceptors of wild-type Lucilia, also excites the photoreceptors of nss Lucilia mutant. The InsP3 + DPG together act synergistically with light to accelerate the decline of the response to light in the mutant flies. These results suggest that the fly phototransduction pathway involves a feedback regulatory loop, which branches subsequent to InsP3 production and regulates guanine nucleotide-binding protein (G protein)-phospholipase C activity. A defect in this regulatory loop, which may cause an unusually low level of intracellular Ca2+, severely reduces the triggering of bumps in the mutants during intense prolonged illumination.

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