Photoreceptor Renewal: A Role for Peripherin/rds
Visual transduction begins with the detection of light within the photoreceptor cell layer of the retina. Within this layer, specialized cells, termed rods and cones, contain the proteins responsible for light capture and its transduction to nerve impulses. The phototransductive proteins reside within an outer segment region that is connected to an inner segment by a thin stalk rich in cytoskeletal elements. A unique property of the outer segments is the presence of an elaborate intracellular membrane system that holds the phototransduction proteins and provides the requisite lipid environment. The maintenance of normal physiological function requires that these postmitotic cells retain the unique structure of the outer segment regions—stacks of membrane saccules in the case of rods and a continuous infolding of membrane in the case of cones. Both photoreceptor rod and cone cells achieve this through a series of coordinated steps. As new membranous material is synthesized, transported, and incorporated into newly forming outer segment membranes, a compensatory shedding of older membranous material occurs, thereby maintaining the segment at a constant length. These processes are collectively referred to as ROS (rod outer segment) or COS (cone outer segment) renewal. We review the cellular and molecular events responsible for these renewal processes and present the recent but compelling evidence, drawn from molecular genetic, biochemical, and biophysical approaches, pointing to an essential role for a unique tetraspanning membrane protein, called peripherin/rds, in the processes of disk morphogenesis.