Drosophila photoreceptors are sensory neurons whose primary function is the transduction of photons into an electrical signal for forward transmission to the brain. Photoreceptors are polarized cells whose apical domain is organized into finger like projections of plasma membrane, microvilli that contain the molecular machinery required for sensory transduction. The development of this apical domain requires intense polarized membrane transport during development and it is maintained by post developmental membrane turnover. Sensory transduction in these cells involves a high rate of G-protein coupled phosphatidylinositol 4,5 bisphosphate [PI(4,5)P(2)] hydrolysis ending with the activation of ion channels that are members of the TRP superfamily. Defects in this lipid-signaling cascade often result in retinal degeneration, which is a consequence of the loss of apical membrane homeostasis. In this review we discuss the various membrane transport challenges of photoreceptors and their regulation by ongoing lipid signaling cascades in these cells. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Lipids and Vesicular Transport.
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