Absorption spectra and linear dichroism of dark-adapted, isolated photoreceptors of mudpuppies, larval and adult tiger salamanders, and tropical toads were measured microspectrophotometrically. Spectral half-band width, dichroic ratio, and transverse specific density were determined using averaged polarized absorptance spectra and photomicrographs of seven types of rod outer segments. Two classes of cells were found, one with higher specific density and dichroic ratio, associable with the presence of rhodopsins, the other, lower in both quantities, associable with porphyropsins. Relationships were derived to calculate the product of molar concentration and extinction coefficient (CEmax) from specific density and dichroic ratio. By utilizing the hypothesis of invariance of oscillator strengths and measured half-band widths, Emax values were independently determined, permitting the calculation of C. The pigment concentration for all cells tested was about 3.5 mM. The broadness of green rod pigment spectra is correlated with reduced molar absorptivity and reduced cellular specific density. Estimation of physiological spectral sensitivities is discussed. Based on dichroic ratio considerations, a model is proposed for the orientation of retinals in situ which could account for the apparent degree of alignment of transition moments. In the chosen orientation, the ring portion of conjugation becomes primarily responsible for axial extinction. Reduced dichroism of dehydroretinal-bearing cells can thus result from the extended ring conjugation of chromophores. Some inferences derivable from the model are discussed.

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