Light sensitive rhabdoms in the octopus retina increase in cross-sectional area in the dark and shrink in the light. Growth in the dark is due to the formation of microvilli in an avillar region of the photoreceptor cell membrane and lengthening of rhabdomere microvilli already present. Diminution in the light is the result of the disassembly and shortening of the same microvilli. Each microvillus contains an actin filament core that must be assembled or disassembled in the dark or hght, respectively. To understand the regulation of the construction and breakdown of rhabdomere microvilli in the light and dark, we used centrifugation to separate the rhabdom membranes followed by Western blotting and Rho pull-down assays to investigate the role of Rho GTPases in this process. Western blotting showed a difference in the distribution of Rho in rhabdom membrane and supernatant fractions. In the hght, Rho was mostly present in the supernatant but in the dark it was found in the fraction enriched with rhabdom membranes. Complementing these results, pull-down assays showed that Rho is activated in the dark but in the light, Rho is mostly inactive. We believe that in the dark, activated Rho binds to the rhabdom membrane and initiates signaling pathways, leading to growth of rhabdomere microvilli. In the light, Rho is present in the soluble fraction, is inactivated, and is likely bound to a Rho GDI. Receptors involved in the activation of Rho in the dark are undetermined and may involve rhodopsin or another membrane protein.
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Vol. 26 • No. 1/2