Rod and cone photoreceptors of the vertebrate retina utilize cGMP as the primary

intracellular messenger for the visual signaling pathway that converts a light stimulus into an electrical response. cGMP metabolism in the signal-transducing photoreceptor outer segment reflects the balance of cGMP synthesis (catalyzed by guanylyl cyclase) and degradation (catalyzed by the photoreceptor phosphodiesterase, PDE6). Upon light stimulation, rapid activation of PDE6 by the heterotrimeric G-protein (transducin) triggers a dramatic drop in cGMP levels that lead to cell hyperpolarization. Following cessation of the light stimulus, the lifetime of activated PDE6 is also precisely regulated by additional processes. This review summarizes recent advances in the structural characterization of the rod and cone PDE6 catalytic and regulatory subunits in the context of previous biochemical studies of the enzymological properties and allosteric regulation of PDE6. Emphasis is given to recent advances in understanding the structural and conformational changes underlying the mechanism by which the activated transducin α-subunit binds to—and relieves inhibition of—PDE6 catalysis that is controlled by its intrinsically disordered, inhibitory γ-subunit. The role of the regulator of G-protein signaling 9-1 (RGS9-1) in regulating the lifetime of the transducin-PDE6 is also briefly covered. The therapeutic potential of pharmacological compounds acting as inhibitors or activators targeting PDE6 is discussed in the context of inherited retinal diseases resulting from mutations in rod and cone PDE6 genes as well as other inherited defects that arise from excessive cGMP accumulation in retinal photoreceptor cells.


Molecular, Cellular and Biomedical Sciences

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Grant/Award Number and Agency

National Eye Institute (NIH) R01 EY005798; National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIH) P20 GM113131

Journal Title

Pflugers Archives European Journal of Physiology



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This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Pflugers Archives European Journal of Physiology. The final authenticated version is available online at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00424-021-02562-x.