Clint L. Makino, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Howe Laboratories, 5th Fl.
243 Charles St.
Boston, MA 2114
Visit my lab page here.
Retinal photoreceptors capture light and transform it into a neural signal. Retinal rods approach the pinnacle of sensitivity; they detect single photons. But such extreme sensitivity is only useful when photons are scarce. To maintain a capacity for signaling in bright light, rods must adjust their sensitivity as a function of the ambient light. We are interested in the molecular mechanisms conferring high sensitivity to dark adapted cells and those underlying light adaptation. By recording the electrical activity of single rods from transgenic mice in which expression of a gene has been blocked or reduced, we have begun to identify key proteins whose concentrations affect the timing and amplification of the photoresponse. For example, hemizygous knockout of rhodopsin was shown by microspectrophotometry to result in a 50% reduction in the expression of the visual pigment rhodopsin. Sensitivity was lowered because photon catch declined. However, expression of fewer rhodopsins relieved molecular crowding, increased the rates of chemical reaction subsequent to photon absorption and accelerated the kinetics of the photoresponse. We further showed that the collision rate between rhodopsin and transducin limited the rising phase while another molecular collision rate limited the falling phase.
Photoreceptors are vulnerable to degenerations resulting from naturally occurring mutations in proteins involved in phototransduction. The degenerations lead to permanent blindness because lost photoreceptors are not replaced. We are exploring the signaling defects cause by these mutations in transgenic mice, in an effort to understand the link between alterations in phototransduction and retinal disease.
For a complete listing of publications click here.
Last Update: 10/30/2013