We compare the retinal rod photocurrent before and after introduction of an hydrolysis-resistant analog of GTP into the outer segment by the whole-cell patch technique. Others have shown that GTP bound to transducin leads to the hydrolysis of cyclic GMP, causing the response to light--a decrease in dark current. The hydrolysis-resistant GTP analog prolongs the response to a bright flash, which leads us to suggest that prolonged transducin activation by bright light desensitizes the rod by a prolonged decrease in dark current. Recovery from the response to a bright flash does occur after introduction of the analog; that recovery requires acceleration of cyclase activity rather than inhibition of phosphodiesterase. The analog mimics light adaptation by desensitizing the rod and speeding the recovery from a dim flash. The analog plus light or light adaptation prolongs the activities of transducin and phosphodiesterase (oligonucleate 5'-nucleotidohydrolase, EC 184.108.40.206) to mediate desensitization by reducing the dark current. Hence, this faster recovery from a dim flash would be by increased activity of guanylate cyclase [GTP pyrophosphate-lyase (cyclizing), EC 220.127.116.11] rather than by inhibited phosphodiesterase. Accelerated activity of guanylate cyclase may speed recovery by response truncation. We conclude that transducin, activated by photolyzed rhodopsin, may lead to increased activity of both phosphodiesterase and guanylate cyclase to mediate the desensitization and the faster recovery of the light-adapted response.