Exposure of an intact vertebrate eye to light bleaches the rhodopsin in the photoreceptor outer segments in spatially nonuniform patterns. Some axial bleaching patterns produced in toad rods were determined using microspectrophotometric techniques. More rhodopsin was bleached at the base of the outer segment than at the distal tip. The shape of the bleaching gradient varied with the extent of bleach and with the spectral content of the illuminant. Monochromatic light at the lambda max of the rhodopsin gave rise to the steepest bleaching gradients and induced the greatest changes in the form of the gradient with increasing extent of bleach. These results were consistent with a mathematical model for pigment bleaching in an unstirred sample. The model did not fit bleaching patterns resulting from special lighting conditions that promoted the photoregeneration of rhodopsin from the intermediates of bleaching. Prolonged light adaptation of toads could also produce axial rhodopsin gradients that were not fit by the bleaching model. Under certain conditions the axial gradient of rhodopsin in a rod outer segment reversed with time in the light: the rhodopsin content became highest at the base. This result could be explained by an interaction between the pattern of bleaching and the intracellular topography of regeneration.

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