Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Calcium activates the light-dependent conductance in melanopsin-expressing photoreceptors of amphioxus.

PMID 26056310


Melanopsin, the photopigment of the "circadian" receptors that regulate the biological clock and the pupillary reflex in mammals, is homologous to invertebrate rhodopsins. Evidence supporting the involvement of phosphoinositides in light-signaling has been garnered, but the downstream effectors that control the light-dependent conductance remain unknown. Microvillar photoreceptors of the primitive chordate amphioxus also express melanopsin and transduce light via phospholipase-C, apparently not acting through diacylglycerol. We therefore examined the role of calcium in activating the photoconductance, using simultaneous, high time-resolution measurements of membrane current and Ca(2+) fluorescence. The light-induced calcium rise precedes the onset of the photocurrent, making it a candidate in the activation chain. Moreover, photolysis of caged Ca elicits an inward current of similar size, time course and pharmacology as the physiological photoresponse, but with a much shorter latency. Internally released calcium thus emerges as a key messenger to trigger the opening of light-dependent channels in melanopsin-expressing microvillar photoreceptors of early chordates.