The phototransduction machinery in the rod outer segment has a strong efficacy gradient.

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Rod photoreceptors consist of an outer segment (OS) and an inner segment. Inside the OS a biochemical machinery transforms the rhodopsin photoisomerization into electrical signal. This machinery has been treated as and is thought to be homogenous with marginal inhomogeneities. To verify this assumption, we developed a methodology based on special tapered optical fibers (TOFs) to deliver highly localized light stimulations. By using these TOFs, specific regions of the rod OS could be stimulated with spots of light highly confined in space. As the TOF is moved from the OS base toward its tip, the amplitude of saturating and single photon responses decreases, demonstrating that the efficacy of the transduction machinery is not uniform and is 5-10 times higher at the base than at the tip. This gradient of efficacy of the transduction machinery is attributed to a progressive depletion of the phosphodiesterase along the rod OS. Moreover we demonstrate that, using restricted spots of light, the duration of the photoresponse along the OS does not increase linearly with the light intensity as with diffuse light.