Gordon L. Fain, Ph.D.


Distinguished Professor, Integrative Biology and Physiology

Member, Brain Research Institute

Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology GPB Home Area

Neuroscience GPB Home Area

Contact Information

Lab Number: (310) 825-8330
Office Phone Number: (310) 206-4281

Work Address:

Los Angeles, CA 90095
Los Angeles, CA 90095


Cellular physiology of vertebrate retina Light falling on the retina excites a photopigment (rhodopsin), which then triggers an enzymatic cascade in the rod and cone photoreceptors . This cascade reduces the intracellular cGMP concentration and decreases the conductance of the photoreceptor plasma membrane. We use a variety of techniques, including intracellular and extracellular recording, patch-clamp, and fluorescent dye laser spot Ca2+ measurement, in order to understand how visual transduction is modulated by Ca2+ to produce adaptation to light and to darkness. We are also interested in mechanisms of photoreceptor degeneration during inherited retinal dystrophy in diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and Leber's amaurosis. Our work has shown that continuous activation of the visual cascade is the cause of apoptosis in some of these disorders, and that cell death is probably triggered by a prolonged decrease in Ca2+ concentration. Increases in Ca2+ can also trigger apoptosis--the photoreceptor regulates its Ca2+ concentration within a narrow range and uses a variety of protective mechanisms to prevent damage from constant light. Our studies are helping to define mechanisms of Ca2+ regulation that, for rods and cones, are literally a matter of life or death.


Chen Ching-Kang, Woodruff Michael L, Chen Frank S, Chen Yenlin, Cilluffo Marianne C, Tranchina Daniel, Fain Gordon L   Modulation of mouse rod response decay by rhodopsin kinase and recoverin The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2012; 32(45): 15998-6006.
Li Xiaoman, McClellan Mark E, Tanito Masaki, Garteiser Philippe, Towner Rheal, Bissig David, Berkowitz Bruce A, Fliesler Steven J, Woodruff Michael L, Fain Gordon L, Birch David G, Khan M Suhaib, Ash John D, Elliott Michael H   Loss of caveolin-1 impairs retinal function due to disturbance of subretinal microenvironment The Journal of biological chemistry, 2012; 287(20): 16424-34.
Tsang Stephen H, Woodruff Michael L, Lin Chyuan-Sheng, Jacobson Barry D, Naumann Matthew C, Hsu Chun Wei, Davis Richard J, Cilluffo Marianne C, Chen Jeannie, Fain Gordon L   Effect of the ILE86TER mutation in the γ subunit of cGMP phosphodiesterase (PDE6) on rod photoreceptor signaling Cellular signalling, 2012; 24(1): 181-8.
Chen Jeannie, Woodruff Michael L, Wang Tian, Concepcion Francis A, Tranchina Daniel, Fain Gordon L   Channel modulation and the mechanism of light adaptation in mouse rods The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2010; 30(48): 16232-40.
Fain Gordon L, Hardie Roger, Laughlin Simon B   Phototransduction and the evolution of photoreceptors Current biology : CB, 2010; 20(3): R114-24.
Chen Ching-Kang, Woodruff Michael L, Chen Frank S, Chen Desheng, Fain Gordon L   Background light produces a recoverin-dependent modulation of activated-rhodopsin lifetime in mouse rods The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2010; 30(4): 1213-20.
Kefalov Vladimir J, Cornwall M Carter, Fain Gordon L   Physiological studies of the interaction between opsin and chromophore in rod and cone visual pigments Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 2010; 652(1): 95-114.
Zhang Youwen, Molday Laurie L, Molday Robert S, Sarfare Shanta S, Woodruff Michael L, Fain Gordon L, Kraft Timothy W, Pittler Steven J   Knockout of GARPs and the β-subunit of the rod cGMP-gated channel disrupts disk morphogenesis and rod outer segment structural integrity Journal of cell science, 2009; 122(Pt 8): 1192-200.
Sampath Alapakkam P, Fain Gordon L   Setting the absolute threshold of vision F1000 biology reports, 2009; 1(4): 66.
Okawa Haruhisa, Sampath Alapakkam P, Laughlin Simon B, Fain Gordon L   ATP consumption by mammalian rod photoreceptors in darkness and in light Current biology : CB, 2008; 18(24): 1917-21.
Davis Richard J, Tosi Joaquin, Janisch Kerstin M, Kasanuki J Mie, Wang Nan-Kai, Kong Jian, Tsui Ilene, Cilluffo Marianne, Woodruff Michael L, Fain Gordon L, Lin Chyuan-Sheng, Tsang Stephen H   Functional rescue of degenerating photoreceptors in mice homozygous for a hypomorphic cGMP phosphodiesterase 6 b allele (Pde6bH620Q) Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 2008; 49(11): 5067-76.
Dizhoor Alexander M, Woodruff Michael L, Olshevskaya Elena V, Cilluffo Marianne C, Cornwall M Carter, Sieving Paul A, Fain Gordon L   Night blindness and the mechanism of constitutive signaling of mutant G90D rhodopsin The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2008; 28(45): 11662-72.
Woodruff Michael L, Janisch Kerstin M, Peshenko Igor V, Dizhoor Alexander M, Tsang Stephen H, Fain Gordon L   Modulation of phosphodiesterase6 turnoff during background illumination in mouse rod photoreceptors The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 2008; 28(9): 2064-74.
Tsang SH, Woodruff ML, Chen CK, Yamashita CY, Cilluffo MC, Rao AL, Farber DB, Fain GL   GAP-independent termination of photoreceptor light response by excess gamma subunit of the cGMP-phosphodiesterase, Journal of Neuroscience, 2006; 26: 4472-4480.
Fain GL   Why photoreceptors die (and why they don't), BioEssays, 2006; 28: 344-354.
Woodruff, ML Wang, Z Chung, HY Redmond, TM Fain, GL Lem, J   Spontaneous activity of opsin apoprotein is a cause of Leber congenital amaurosis Nature genetics. , 2003; 35(2): 158-64.
Fain GL   Sensory Transduction , 2003; .