The Journal of biological chemistry

Induction of the unfolded protein response by constitutive G-protein signaling in rod photoreceptor cells.

PMID 25183010


Phototransduction is a G-protein signal transduction cascade that converts photon absorption to a change in current at the plasma membrane. Certain genetic mutations affecting the proteins in the phototransduction cascade cause blinding disorders in humans. Some of these mutations serve as a genetic source of "equivalent light" that activates the cascade, whereas other mutations lead to amplification of the light response. How constitutive phototransduction causes photoreceptor cell death is poorly understood. We showed that persistent G-protein signaling, which occurs in rod arrestin and rhodopsin kinase knock-out mice, caused a rapid and specific induction of the PERK pathway of the unfolded protein response. These changes were not observed in the cGMP-gated channel knock-out rods, an equivalent light condition that mimics light-stimulated channel closure. Thus transducin signaling, but not channel closure, triggers rapid cell death in light damage caused by constitutive phototransduction. Additionally, we show that in the albino light damage model cell death was not associated with increase in global protein ubiquitination or unfolded protein response induction. Taken together, these observations provide novel mechanistic insights into the cell death pathway caused by constitutive phototransduction and identify the unfolded protein response as a potential target for therapeutic intervention.