Skip to main content

Mathematical model of the spatio-temporal dynamics of second messengers in visual transduction.


Andreucci DD , Bisegna P P , Caruso G G , Hamm HE H E , DiBenedetto E E . Biophysical journal. 2003 9 ; 85(3). 1358-76


A model describing the role of transversal and longitudinal diffusion of cGMP and Ca(2+) in signaling in the rod outer segment of vertebrates is developed. Utilizing a novel notion of surface-volume reaction and the mathematical theories of homogenization and concentrated capacity, the diffusion of cGMP and Ca(2+) in the inter-disc spaces is shown to be reducible to a one-parameter family of diffusion processes taking place on a single rod cross section; whereas the diffusion in the outer shell is shown to be reducible to a diffusion on a cylindrical surface. Moreover, the exterior flux of the former serves as a source term for the latter, alleviating the assumption of a well-stirred cytosol. A previous model of visual transduction that assumes a well-stirred rod outer segment cytosol (and thus contains no spatial information) can be recovered from this model by imposing a "bulk" assumption. The model shows that upon activation of a single rhodopsin, cGMP changes are local, and exhibit both a longitudinal and a transversal component. Consequently, membrane current is also highly localized. The spatial spread of the single photon response along the longitudinal axis of the outer segment is predicted to be 3-5 microm, consistent with experimental data. This approach represents a tool to analyze point-wise signaling dynamics without requiring averaging over the entire cell by global Michaelis-Menten kinetics.