Retinal rod and cone cGMP phosphodiesterases (PDE6 family) function as the effector enzyme in the vertebrate visual transduction cascade. The activity of PDE6 catalytic subunits is controlled by the Pgamma-subunits. In addition to the inhibition of cGMP hydrolysis at the catalytic sites, Pgamma is known to stimulate a noncatalytic binding of cGMP to the regulatory GAFa-GAFb domains of PDE6. The latter role of Pgamma has been attributed to its polycationic region. To elucidate the structural basis for the regulation of cGMP binding to the GAF domains of PDE6, a photoexcitable peptide probe corresponding to the polycationic region of Pgamma, Pgamma-21-45, was specifically cross-linked to rod PDE6alphabeta. The site of Pgamma-21-45 cross-linking was localized to Met138Gly139 within the PDE6alpha GAFa domain using mass spectrometric analysis. Chimeras between PDE5 and cone PDE6alpha', containing GAFa and/or GAFb domains of PDE6alpha' have been generated to probe a potential role of the GAFb domains in binding to Pgamma. Analysis of the inhibition of the PDE5/PDE6alpha' chimeras by Pgamma supported the role of PDE6 GAFa but not GAFb domains in the interaction with Pgamma. Our results suggest that a direct binding of the polycationic region of Pgamma to the GAFa domains of PDE6 may lead to a stabilization of the noncatalytic cGMP-binding sites.