Light-evoked membrane currents were recorded with suction electrodes from the outer segments of individual photoreceptors enzymatically dissociated from the skate retina. The intensity-response relation of dark-adapted cells closely followed a Michaelis function for which a half-saturating response was elicited by a flash intensity that produced about 36 photoisomerizations. Dim-light responses, as well as the early rising phase of the responses to a wide range of flash intensities, could be described by a reaction scheme that involved a series of four first-order delay stages. The number of delay stages required to model the rising phase of the photocurrents did not change in light adaptation. However, background illumination that reduced sensitivity by 1.5 log units, or a bleaching exposure that resulted in a nearly equivalent desensitization, shortened significantly the time scale of the responses. In both instances there were two- to threefold increases in the rate constants of the transitional delays, and almost complete suppression of the tail current that characterized the response of the dark-adapted cell. These findings suggest that although light adaptation alters the gain and kinetics of the transduction mechanism, the nature of the intervening processes is the same in dark- and light-adapted photoreceptors. Moreover, the results show clearly that there is no need to postulate the existence of a second class of cone-like rods to account for the remarkable ability of skate photoreceptors to respond to incremental stimuli presented on "saturating" background fields or after exposure to an intense bleaching light.

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