Application of a mechanical stimulus to the cell body of the peritrich ciliate Vorticella convallaria evoked an all-or-nothing membrane depolarization, the large pulse. This was always accompanied by an all-or-nothing cellular contraction, and simultaneous recordings of the two events revealed that the large pulse was always preceded by the cellular contraction. A smaller graded membrane depolarization (the medium pulse) was sometimes produced in response to a weaker mechanical stimulus. The medium pulse was accompanied by a small, graded, localized contraction of the cell body and was occasionally followed by a large pulse. When a large pulse occurred during a medium pulse, it reached the same peak level as that of a large pulse evoked without a preceding medium pulse. When a medium pulse occurred during a medium pulse, summation of the two pulses was observed. Sustained contraction causes V. convallaria to become rounded, and in this state a mechanical stimulus stronger than that used to evoke the large pulse evoked a graded depolarizing mechanoreceptor potential in the cell. We conclude that both the large and medium pulses are caused by an inward receptor current that is activated mechanically following contraction of the cell body. A localized contraction evokes a small mechanoreceptor current, causing a medium pulse. An all-or-nothing contraction evokes a saturated, all-or-nothing mechanoreceptor current, causing a large pulse.

This content is only available via PDF.