The rod outer segment (OS), comprised of tightly stacked disk membranes packed with rhodopsin, is in a dynamic equilibrium governed by a diurnal rhythm with newly synthesized membrane inserted at the OS base balancing membrane loss from the distal tip via disk shedding. Using transgenic Xenopus and live cell confocal imaging, we found OS axial variation of fluorescence intensity in cells expressing a fluorescently tagged rhodopsin transgene. There was a light synchronized fluctuation in intensity, with higher intensity in disks formed at night and lower intensity for those formed during the day. This fluctuation was absent in constant light or dark conditions. There was also a slow modulation of the overall expression level that was not synchronized with the lighting cycle or between cells in the same retina. The axial variations of other membrane-associated fluorescent proteins, eGFP-containing two geranylgeranyl acceptor sites and eGFP fused to the transmembrane domain of syntaxin, were greatly reduced or not detectable, respectively. In acutely light-adapted rods, an arrestin-eGFP fusion protein also exhibited axial variation. Both the light-sensitive Rho-eGFP and arrestineGFP banding were in phase with the previously characterized birefringence banding (Kaplan, Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 21, 395-402 1981). In contrast, endogenous rhodopsin did not exhibit such axial variation. Thus, there is an axial inhomogeneity in membrane composition or structure, detectable by the rhodopsin transgene density distribution and regulated by the light cycle, implying a light-regulated step for disk assembly in the OS. The impact of these results on the use of chimeric proteins with rhodopsin fused to fluorescent proteins at the carboxyl terminus is discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)