Compartmentalization and Ca2+ buffering are essential for prevention of light-induced retinal degeneration.

PubMed ID: 23077055

Author(s): Weiss S, Kohn E, Dadon D, Katz B, Peters M, Lebendiker M, Kosloff M, Colley NJ, Minke B. Compartmentalization and Ca2+ buffering are essential for prevention of light-induced retinal degeneration. J Neurosci. 2012 Oct 17;32(42):14696-708. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2456-12.2012. PMID 23077055

Journal: The Journal Of Neuroscience : The Official Journal Of The Society For Neuroscience, Volume 32, Issue 42, Oct 2012

Fly photoreceptors are polarized cells, each of which has an extended interface between its cell body and the light-signaling compartment, the rhabdomere. Upon intense illumination, rhabdomeric calcium concentration reaches millimolar levels that would be toxic if Ca(2+) diffusion between the rhabdomere and cell body was not robustly attenuated. Yet, it is not clear how such effective attenuation is obtained. Here we show that Ca(2+) homeostasis in the photoreceptor cell relies on the protein calphotin. This unique protein functions as an immobile Ca(2+) buffer localized along the base of the rhabdomere, separating the signaling compartment from the cell body. Generation and analyses of transgenic Drosophila strains, in which calphotin-expression levels were reduced in a graded manner, showed that moderately reduced calphotin expression impaired Ca(2+) homeostasis while calphotin elimination resulted in severe light-dependent photoreceptor degeneration. Electron microscopy, electrophysiology, and optical methods revealed that the degeneration was rescued by prevention of Ca(2+) overload via overexpression of CalX, the Na(+)-Ca(2+) exchanger. In addition, Ca(2+)-imaging experiments showed that reduced calphotin levels resulted in abnormally fast kinetics of Ca(2+) elevation in photoreceptor cells. Together, the data suggest that calphotin functions as a Ca(2+) buffer; a possibility that we directly demonstrate by expressing calphotin in a heterologous expression system. We propose that calphotin-mediated compartmentalization and Ca(2+) buffering constitute an effective strategy to protect cells from Ca(2+) overload and light-induced degeneration.