For over 30 years, photoreceptors have been an outstanding model system for elucidating basic principles in sensory transduction and G protein signaling. Recently, photoreceptors have become an equally attractive model for studying many facets of neuronal cell biology. The primary goal of this review is to illustrate this rapidly growing trend. We will highlight the areas of active research in photoreceptor biology that reveal how different specialized compartments of the cell cooperate in fulfilling its overall function: converting photon absorption into changes in neurotransmitter release. The same trend brings us closer to understanding how defects in photoreceptor signaling can lead to cell death and retinal degeneration.
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