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Modification of ciliary activity by the rate of membrane potential changes inParamecium

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The sequence of ciliary responses inParamecium to shifts in membrane potential is rate-dependent. With depolarizations exceeding the rate of 40mV · sec−1 the cilia switch directly from normal to reversed beating, thereby rapidly increasing their frequency. If the membrane is depolarized at the rate of 40 mV · sec−1 or less, unabbreviated ciliary responses occur with the sequence: reduction in normal beating → inactivation → increase in reversed beating. This “typical”, since potential-correlated, sequence is at least 50 times slower than the preceding electric membrane response. A time-dependent hysteresis of current versus voltage during depolarizing and hyperpolarizing slow voltage ramps suggests membrane accommodation mechanisms. A slow inactivation of inward calcium current during depolarization and a slow decrease in Ca-conductance during hyperpolarization is suggested from a hysteresis of the frequency response versus voltage. Differences in local ciliary responses to slow voltage ramps are interpreted as generated by modified local Ca-conductances. It is concluded that the graded frequency and directional responses of the cilia are correlated with the time-course of calcium accumulation and depletion within the cilium.

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Dedicated to Professor Bernhard Rensch on the occasion of his seventyfifth birthday.

The experiments were done in the laboratory of Dr. Roger Eckert, Department of Biology, University of California at Los Angeles. I am grateful to Dr. Eckert and to his collaborator, Dr. Yutaka Naitoh, for practical help and many inspiring discussions. I would like to thank Dr. Naitoh for permission to cite an unpublished result, and Dr. Eckert and Dr. Ulrich Thurm, Münster, for their critical reading of the manuscript.

The experiments were supported by the NSF grant GB-30499, USPHS grant NS-05670 and a grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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Machemer, H. Modification of ciliary activity by the rate of membrane potential changes inParamecium . J. Comp. Physiol. 101, 343–356 (1975).

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  • Calcium
  • Membrane Potential
  • Frequency Response
  • Potential Change
  • Directional Response