Photoreceptor cells were enzymatically dissociated from the eye of the file clam, Lima scabra. Micrographs of solitary cells reveal a villous rhabdomeric lobe, a smooth soma, and a heavily pigmented intermediate region. Membrane voltage recordings using patch electrodes show resting potentials around -60 mV. Input resistance ranges from 300 M omega to greater than 1 G omega, while membrane capacitance is of the order of 50-70 pF. In darkness, quantum bumps occur spontaneously and their frequency can be increased by dim continuous illumination in a fashion graded with light intensity. Stimulation with flashes of light produces a depolarizing photoresponse which is usually followed by a transient hyperpolarization if the stimulus is sufficiently intense. Changing the membrane potential with current-clamp causes the early phase to invert around +10 mV, while the hyperpolarizing dip disappears around -80 mV. With bright light, the biphasic response is followed by an additional depolarizing wave, often accompanied by a burst of action potentials. Both Na and Ca ions are required in the extracellular solution for normal photoexcitation: the response to flashes of moderate intensity is greatly degraded either when Na is replaced with Tris, or when Ca is substituted with Mg. By contrast, quantum bumps elicited by dim, sustained light are not affected by Ca removal, but they are markedly suppressed in a reversible way in 0 Na sea water. It was concluded that the generation of the receptor potential is primarily dependent on Na ions, whereas Ca is probably involved in a voltage-dependent process that shapes the photoresponse. Light adaptation by repetitive flashes leads to a decrease of the depolarizing phase and a concomitant enhancement of the hyperpolarizing dip, eventually resulting in a purely hyperpolarizing photoresponse. Dark adaptation restores the original biphasic shape of the photoresponse.

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