Rod outer segment membrane guanylate cyclase (ROS-GC1) is a bimodal Ca(2+) signal transduction switch. Lowering [Ca(2+)](i) from 200 to 20 nM progressively turns it "ON" as does raising [Ca(2+)](i) from 500 to 5000 nM. The mode operating at lower [Ca(2+)](i) plays a vital role in phototransduction in both rods and cones. The physiological function of the mode operating at elevated [Ca(2+)](i) is not known. Through comprehensive studies on mice involving gene deletions, biochemistry, immunohistochemistry, electroretinograms and single cell recordings, the present study demonstrates that the Ca(2+)-sensor S100B coexists with and is physiologically linked to ROS-GC1 in cones but not in rods. It up-regulates ROS-GC1 activity with a K(1/2) for Ca(2+) greater than 500 nM and modulates the transmission of neural signals to cone ON-bipolar cells. Furthermore, a possibility is raised that under pathological conditions where [Ca(2+)](i) levels rise to and perhaps even enter the micromolar range, the S100B signaling switch will be turned "ON" causing an explosive production of CNG channel opening and further rise in [Ca(2+)](i) in cone outer segments. The findings define a new cone-specific Ca(2+)-dependent feature of photoreceptors and expand our understanding of the operational principles of phototransduction machinery.