The subcellular compartmentalization of signalling molecules helps to ensure the selective activation of different signal-transduction cascades within a single cell. Although there are many examples of compartmentalized signalling molecules, there are few examples of entire signalling cascades being organized as distinct signalling complexes. In Drosophila photoreceptors, the InaD protein, which consists of five PDZ domains, functions as a multivalent adaptor that brings together several components of the phototransduction cascade into a macromolecular complex. Here we study single-photon responses in several photoreceptor mutant backgrounds, and show that the InaD macromolecular complex is the unit of signalling that underlies elementary responses. We show that the localized activity of this signalling unit promotes reliable single-photon responses as well as rapid activation and feedback regulation. Finally, we use genetic and electrophysiological tools to illustrate how the assembly of signalling molecules into a transduction complex limits signal amplification in vivo.
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