The membrane current of single rod outer segments

J Physiol. 1979 Mar;288:589-611.


1. Outer segments of individual rods in the retina of the toad, Bufo marinus, were drawn into a glass pipette to record the membrane current. 2. Light flashes evoked transient outward currents. The peak response amplitude was related to flash intensity by a Michaelis equation with half-saturating intensity about 1 photon mum-2. 3. The saturating response amplitude ranged up to 27 pA and corresponded closely to complete suppression of the steady inward current present in darkness. 4. For a given cell the saturating response amplitude varied linearly with the length of outer segment within the pipette. This is consistent with a uniform density of light-sensitive channels and negligible gradient of membrane potential along the outer segment. 5. Responses to bright flashes never showed the relaxation from an initial peak seen previously in intracellular voltage recordings, suggesting that the conductance change responsible for the relaxation does not occur in the outer segment. 6. Responses to local illumination of only the recorded outer segment were very similar to those obtained with diffuse light at the same intensity, indicating that peripheral rods made little contribution to the responses. 7. The spectral sensitivity of 'red' rods was consistent with a retinal1-based pigment with lambda max = 498 +/- 2 nm. 8. The kinetics of the response were consistent with four stages of delay affecting action of the internal transmitter. Responses were faster at the basal end of the outer segment than at the distal tip. 9. Background light reduced the sensitivity to a superposed dim test flash and shortened the time course of the response, indicating that adapting light modifies the kinetics and gain of the transduction mechanism within the outer segment. 10. Responses to dim lights exhibited pronounced fluctuations which are attributed in the succeeding paper (Baylor, Lamb & Yau, 1979) to the quantal nature of light.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bufo marinus
  • Electric Conductivity
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kinetics
  • Light
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Time Factors