Rod photoreceptors generate amplified, reproducible responses to single photons via a G protein signaling cascade. Surprisingly, genetic perturbations that dramatically alter the deactivation of the principal signal amplifier, the GPCR rhodopsin (R&z.ast;), do not much alter the amplitude of single-photon responses (SPRs). These same perturbations, when crossed into a line lacking calcium feedback regulation of cGMP synthesis, produced much larger alterations in SPR amplitudes. Analysis of SPRs from rods with and without feedback reveal that the consequences of trial-to-trial fluctuations in R&z.ast; lifetime in normal rods are also dampened by feedback regulation of cGMP synthesis. Thus, calcium feedback trumps the mechanisms of R&z.ast; deactivation in determining the SPR amplitude, attenuating responses arising from longer R&z.ast; lifetimes to a greater extent than those arising from shorter ones. As a result, rod SPRs achieve a more stereotyped amplitude, a characteristic considered important for reliable transmission through the visual system.
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