Phototransduction, the primary event in the processing of visual stimuli, is the conversion of light energy into a change in the ionic permeabilities of the photoreceptor cell membrane. In both vertebrates and invertebrates, this process is carried out through a specialized form of a G-protein-coupled receptor cascade. The mechanisms that mediate visual excitation in the vertebrate photoreceptor have been physiologically and biochemically well characterized, and many aspects of this system have served as prototypes for other transduction cascades. However, there are still many unresolved issues in vertebrate phototransduction. The study of phototransduction in Drosophila offers a unique opportunity to make use of powerful molecular genetic techniques to identify novel transduction molecules, and then to examine the function of these molecules in vivo, in their normal cellular environment. The results of a combination of molecular, genetic, physiological and biochemical studies are beginning to produce a clearer model for the complex mechanisms involved in invertebrate visual transduction.
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