Toward a unified model of vertebrate rod phototransduction

R. D. Hamer, S. C. Nicholas, D. Tranchina, T. D. Lamb, J. L P Jarvinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recently, we introduced a phototransduction model that was able to account for the reproducibility of vertebrate rod single-photon responses (SPRs) (Hamer et al., 2003). The model was able to reproduce SPR statistics by means of stochastic activation and inactivation of rhodopsin (R*), transducin (G α), and phosphodiesterase (PDE). The features needed to capture the SPR statistics were (1) multiple steps of R* inactivation by means of multiple phosphorylations (followed by arrestin capping) and (2) phosphorylation dependence of the affinity between R* and the three molecules competing to bind with R* (G α, arrestin, and rhodopsin kinase). The model was also able to account for several other rod response features in the dim-flash regime, including SPRs obtained from rods in which various elements of the cascade have been genetically disabled or disrupted. However, the model was not tested under high light-level conditions. We sought to evaluate the extent to which the multiple phosphorylation model could simultaneously account for single-photon response behavior, as well as responses to high light levels causing complete response saturation and/or significant light adaptation (LA). To date no single model, with one set of parameters, has been able to do this. Dim-flash responses and statistics were simulated using a hybrid stochastic/deterministic model and Monte-Carlo methods as in Hamer et al. (2003). A dark-adapted flash series, and stimulus paradigms from the literature eliciting various degrees of light adaptation (LA), were simulated using a full differential equation version of the model that included the addition of Ca 2+-feedback onto rhodopsin kinase via recoverin. With this model, using a single set of parameters, we attempted to account for (1) SPR waveforms and statistics (as in Hamer et al., 2003); (2) a full dark-adapted flash-response series, from dim flash to saturating, bright flash levels, from a toad rod; (3) steady-state LA responses, including LA circulating current (as in Koutalos et al., 1995) and LA flash sensitivity measured in rods from four species; (4) step responses from newt rods (Forti et al., 1989) over a large dynamic range; (5) dynamic LA responses, such as the step-flash paradigm of Fain et al. (1989), and the two-flash paradigm of Murnick and Lamb (1996); and (6) the salient response features from four knockout rod preparations. The model was able to meet this stringent test, accounting for almost all the salient qualitative, and many quantitative features, of the responses across this broad array of stimulus conditions, including SPR reproducibility. The model promises to be useful in testing hypotheses regarding both normal and abnormal photoreceptor function, and is a good starting point for development of a full-range model of cone phototransduction. Informative limitations of the model are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)417-436
Number of pages20
JournalVisual neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Full-range phototransduction model
  • Light adaptation
  • Phototransduction
  • Rod responses
  • Single-photon reproducibility
  • Stochastic simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Sensory Systems


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