Visual pigments can be spontaneously activated by internal thermal energy, generating noise that interferes with real-light detection. Recently, we developed a physicochemical theory that successfully predicts the rate of spontaneous activity of representative rod and cone pigments from their peak-absorption wavelength (λmax), with pigments having longer λmax being noisier. Interestingly, cone pigments may generally be ~25 fold noisier than rod pigments of the same λmax, possibly ascribed to an 'open' chromophore-binding pocket in cone pigments defined by the capability of chromophore-exchange in darkness. Here, we show in mice that the λmax-dependence of pigment noise could be extended even to a mutant pigment, E122Q-rhodopsin. Moreover, although E122Q-rhodopsin shows some cone-pigment-like characteristics, its noise remained quantitatively predictable by the 'non-open' nature of its chromophore-binding pocket as in wild-type rhodopsin. The openness/closedness of the chromophore-binding pocket is potentially a useful indicator of whether a pigment is intended for detecting dim or bright light.
Keywords: mouse; neuroscience; retinal photoreceptors; spontaneous excitation; vision; visual pigment.