In two species of lobster, application of the biogenic amine, histamine (HA), to the soma of olfactory receptor cells suppressed both spontaneous and odour-evoked activity, as shown by electrophysiological recording from single cells. The action of HA was graded, reversible, specific to HA, and had a threshold between 0.1 and 1 mumol l-1. HA increased the conductance of the membrane, primarily to chloride ions. The vertebrate HA receptor antagonist, cimetidine, and the nicotinic receptor antagonist, d-tubocurarine, but not other known vertebrate HA receptor antagonists, reversibly blocked the action of HA. These results suggest that a histaminergic mechanism modulates stimulus-response coupling in lobster olfactory receptor cells and potentially implicate a novel HA receptor, pharmacologically similar to the one recently described in the visual system of flies.

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