Dark current and photocurrent in retinal rods

Biophys J. 1970 May;10(5):380-412. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(70)86308-1.


The interstitial voltages, currents, and resistances of the receptor layer of the isolated rat retina have been investigated with arrays of micropipette electrodes inserted under direct visual observation by infrared microscopy. In darkness a steady current flows inward through the plasma membrane of the rod outer segments. It is balanced by equal outward current distributed along the remainder of each rod. Flashes of light produce a photocurrent which transiently reduces the dark current with a waveform resembling the PII and a-wave components of the electroretinogram. The photocurrent is produced by a local action of light within 12 mum of its point of absorption in the outer segments. The quantum current gain of the photocurrent is greater than 10(6). The electrical space constant of rat rods is greater than 25 mum, so that the electrical effects of the photocurrent are large enough at the rod synapses to permit single absorbed photons to be detected by the visual system. The photocurrent is apparently the primary sensory consequence of light absorption by rhodopsin.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Darkness
  • Electrophysiology*
  • Electroretinography
  • Infrared Rays
  • Light
  • Mathematics
  • Microscopy
  • Perfusion
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Rats