Subunit dissociation and diffusion determine the subcellular localization of rod and cone transducins

Derek H. Rosenzweig, K. Saidas Nair, Junhua Wei, Qiang Wang, Greg Garwin, John C. Saari, Ching Kang Chen, Alan V. Smrcka, Anand Swaroop, Janis Lem, James B. Hurley, Vladlen Z. Slepak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Activation of rod photoreceptors by light induces a massive redistribution of the heterotrimeric G-protein transducin. In darkness, transducin is sequestered within the membrane-enriched outer segments of the rod cell. In light, it disperses throughout the entire neuron. We show here that redistribution of rod transducin by light requires activation, but it does not require ATP. This observation rules out participation of molecular motors in the redistribution process. In contrast to the light-stimulated redistribution of rod transducin in rods, cone transducin in cones does not redistribute during activation. Remarkably, when cone transducin is expressed in rods, it does undergo light-stimulated redistribution. We show here that the difference in subcellular localization of activated rod and cone G-proteins correlates with their affinity for membranes. Activated rod transducin releases from membranes, whereas activated cone transducin remains bound to membranes. A synthetic peptide that dissociates G-protein complexes independently of activation facilitates dispersion of both rod and cone transducins within the cells. This peptide also facilitates detachment of both G-proteins from the membranes. Together, these results show that it is the dissociation state of transducin that determines its localization in photoreceptors. When rod transducin is stimulated, its subunits dissociate, leave outer segment membranes, and equilibrate throughout the cell. Cone transducin subunits do not dissociate during activation and remain sequestered within the outer segment. These findings indicate that the subunits of some heterotrimeric G-proteins remain associated during activation in their native environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5484-5494
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 16 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cone
  • Diffusion
  • Retina
  • Rod
  • Signal transduction
  • Transducin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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