Regulation of calcium homeostasis in the outer segments of rod and cone photoreceptors

Frans Vinberg, Jeannie Chen, Vladimir J. Kefalov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Calcium plays important roles in the function and survival of rod and cone photoreceptor cells. Rapid regulation of calcium in the outer segments of photoreceptors is required for the modulation of phototransduction that drives the termination of the flash response as well as light adaptation in rods and cones. On a slower time scale, maintaining proper calcium homeostasis is critical for the health and survival of photoreceptors. Decades of work have established that the level of calcium in the outer segments of rods and cones is regulated by a dynamic equilibrium between influx via the transduction cGMP-gated channels and extrusion via rod- and cone-specific Na + /Ca 2+ , K + exchangers (NCKXs). It had been widely accepted that the only mechanism for extrusion of calcium from rod outer segments is via the rod-specific NCKX1, while extrusion from cone outer segments is driven exclusively by the cone-specific NCKX2. However, recent evidence from mice lacking NCKX1 and NCKX2 have challenged that notion and have revealed a more complex picture, including a NCKX-independent mechanism in rods and two separate NCKX-dependent mechanisms in cones. This review will focus on recent findings on the molecular mechanisms of extrusion of calcium from the outer segments of rod and cone photoreceptors, and the functional and structural changes in photoreceptors when normal extrusion is disrupted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-101
Number of pages15
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • Calcium
  • Light adaptation
  • NCKX1
  • NCKX2
  • NCKX4
  • Photoreceptors


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