Turnover of Vertebrate Photoreceptor Membranes

  • D. J. Roof
Part of the Dahlem Workshop Reports book series (DAHLEM, volume 34)


Photoreceptor membrane turnover in vertebrate retinas is measured in two ways: by monitoring incorporation of labelled precursors into new membranes or by quantitating the amount of discarded membrane which appears within the large phagosomes of the overlying pigment epithelium. Using these assays, several key factors in the membrane turnover cycle have been identified. All outer segments add membranes at their bases and shed at their tips. Rods differ from cones in segregating newly synthesized disc membranes into discrete packets which move up the rod length until shed. Newly synthesized cone membranes are quickly mixed with old membranes and thus cannot be distinguished along the length of the cone outer segment. On average for both rods and cones, the amount of shed membrane is equivalent to the amount of newly added membrane so that in the adult, rods and cones do not change length. However, not every outer segment sheds every day and the shedding vs. addition time course is not precisely matched over a single light/dark period. The timing of membrane shedding differs for rods and cones and varies widely among cones of different species. The contribution of circadian and light/darkdependent components also varies among species. For species with circadian components of shedding, the “clock” resides within the eye. The detailed kinetics of membrane addition are less well-known. Disc addition in rods is initiated by light in some species but not in others and is probably not circadian. Finally, it remains to be discovered both how and why photoreceptor membranes are renewed. Although many extracellularly applied substances (cyclic nucleotides, calcium, depolarizing and hyperpolarizing agents, and cytoskeleton-perturbing drugs) can affect the appearance or disc-derived phagosomes in the retinal pigment epithelium, the normal role for these factors in in vivo shedding has not been shown.


Outer Segment Membrane Turnover Photoreceptor Membrane Membrane Addition Disc Assembly 
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Copyright information

© Dr. S. Bernhard, Dahlem Konferenzen, Berlin 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. J. Roof
    • 1
  1. 1.Berman-Gund LaboratoryHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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