Glucose metabolism in the photoreceptor rod outer segment produces both ATP (GTP) and NADPH to support phototransduction and NADPH-requiring processes in this organelle. Glycolysis in isolated bovine rod outer segments produces 44.0 +/- 6.4 nmol of ATP/min/mg of protein or 5.7 mM ATP/min. This rate of ATP production is more than sufficient to maintain the basal rate of cGMP synthesis (0.86 mM cGMP/min) in the dark requiring 1.7 mM ATP/min. Following photoexcitation, the 4.5-fold increase in the turnover of cGMP requires an ATP synthesis rate of up to 7.7 mM ATP/min (Ames, A., Walseth, T. F., Heyman, R. A., Barad, M., Graeff, R. M., and Goldberg, N. D. (1986) J. Biol. Chem. 261, 13034-13042). Under these conditions the rate of ATP production by glycolysis as measured in isolated rod outer segments is not sufficient for the regeneration of cGMP. Additional energy is most likely provided by the phosphocreatine shuttle which transports high energy phosphate groups in the form of creatine phosphate from the rod inner segment to the rod outer segment for conversion to ATP. The hexose monophosphate pathway in bovine rod outer segments can produce up to 39.8 +/- 2.2 nmol of NADPH/min/mg of protein. This rate of NADPH production is sufficient to support both the reduction of retinal to retinol (1.2 +/- 0.2 nmol of NADPH/min/mg of protein) following the photobleaching of rhodopsin and glutathione reduction (1.1 +/- 0.1 nmol of NADPH/min/mg of protein) for the protection of rod outer segments from oxidative damage. These studies provide insight into the contribution of anaerobic glycolysis and the hexose monophosphate pathway in providing energy and nucleotides for phototransduction and other outer segment processes.