The route of the visual receptor rhodopsin along the cilium

J Cell Sci. 2019 May 15;132(10):jcs229526. doi: 10.1242/jcs.229526.


The photoreceptor outer segment is the most elaborate primary cilium, containing large amounts of rhodopsin (RHO) in disk membranes that grow from a connecting cilium. The movement of RHO along the connecting cilium precedes formation of the disk membranes. However, the route that RHO takes has not been clearly determined; some reports suggest that it follows an intracellular, vesicular route along the axoneme, possibly as an adaptation for the high load of delivery or the morphogenesis of the disk endomembranes. We addressed this question by studying RHO in cilia of IMCD3 cells and mouse rod photoreceptors. In IMCD3 cilia, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) experiments with fluorescently tagged RHO supported the idea of RHO motility in the ciliary plasma membrane and was inconsistent with the hypothesis of RHO motility within the lumen of the cilium. In rod photoreceptors, FRAP of RHO-EGFP was altered by externally applied lectin, supporting the idea of plasmalemmal RHO dynamics. Quantitative immunoelectron microscopy corroborated our live-cell conclusions, as RHO was found to be distributed along the plasma membrane of the connecting cilium, with negligible labeling within the axoneme. Taken together, the present findings demonstrate RHO trafficking entirely via the ciliary plasma membrane.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

Keywords: Cilium; Photoreceptor; Rhodopsin; Trafficking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cilia / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Photoreceptor Cells / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Rhodopsin / metabolism*
  • Transfection


  • Rhodopsin