Retinal phosphenes and discrete dark noises in rods: A new biophysical framework
Spontaneous rhodopsin activation produces discrete noises indistinguishable from single-photon responses. However, there is a serious discrepancy between the apparent energy barrier of thermal events compared with that of the photon-driven process. Current estimates of the activation energies of discrete dark noises in vertebrate rod and cone pigments are ∼40–50 kcal/mol for activation by photon and ∼20–25 kcal/mol for activation by heat. To reconcile this discrepancy, it was assumed that thermal activation and photon activation of rhodopsin follow different molecular mechanisms. The most convincing hypothesis for a separate low-energy thermal pathway is that the discrete dark noises of rods arise in a small subpopulation of rhodopsins, where the Schiff base linking the chromophore to the protein part has been deprotonated.According to Narici et al.’ experiments (2009, Radiation Measurements), phosphene perception in space travel is due to the ionizing radiation-induced free radicals that generate chemiluminescent photons from lipid peroxidation. These photons are absorbed by the photoreceptors chromophores, which modify the rhodopsin molecules (bleaching) and start the photo-transduction cascade resulting in the perception of phosphenes.Here, we point out that not only retinal phosphenes but also the discrete dark noise of rods can be due to the natural redox related (free radical) bioluminescent photons in the retina. In other words, under regulated conditions, lipid peroxidation is a natural process in cells and also in retinal membranes. Since the natural lipid peroxidation is one of the main sources of bioluminescent photons and the photoreceptors have the highest oxygen demand and polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) concentration, there is a continuous, low level bioluminescent photon emission in the retina without any external photonic stimulation. During photopic or scotopic vision, evanescent bioluminescent photon emission is negligible. In contrast, in dark-adapted retinal cells this evanescent bioluminescent photon emission is not negligible. Therefore, our hypothesis is that the discrete dark noise of rods can be due to these bioluminescent photons.
Journal: Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology - Volume 96, Issue 3, 4 September 2009, Pages 255–259