Combes D, Simmers J, Nonnotte L, Moulins M (1993) Tetrodotoxin-sensitive dendritic spiking and control of axonal firing in a lobster mechanoreceptor neurone. J Physiol (Lond) 460:581-602.
1. A primary mechanosensory neurone, the anterior gastric receptor (AGR) associated with gastric mill muscle in the lobster foregut was examined in vitro with extra- and intra-cellular recording techniques to understand processes of dendritic integration and dendro-axonal communication. 2. AGR has a 'T'-shaped geometry; its two long (> 3 mm) primary dendrites project distally to spatially separate, stretch sensitive terminals and converge centrally onto a common apical neurite that leads to a bipolar soma and single axon. 3. The receptor's bilateral dendrites are independently capable of generating action potentials. These appear to be Na+ dependent since they are blocked by tetrodotoxin, but not by Co2+ or a lack of Ca2+ in the bath saline. 4. Both dendrites are autogenically active, although impulses in the dendrite with the higher intrinsic excitability may cross over and activate the trigger zone on the contralateral side. Moreover, spikes arising on either dendrite do not actively invade the soma, but are conveyed as decremented potentials to a third trigger zone on the initial axon segment. 5. Focal applications of TTX (tetrodotoxin) demonstrated the existence and allowed precise definition of a central membrane compartment of AGR that appears to lack in functional Na+ channels. This inexcitable region includes the soma, the apical neurite and the central branch point of the two dendrites. A failure to observe collision block of bilateral dendritic potentials as they traverse the neurite supported this conclusion. 6. Horseradish peroxidase injections and staining revealed two morphological features of the apical neurite that differed markedly from other regions of the cell. In addition to a relatively large diameter, the neurite's plasma membrane is heavily convoluted and coiled to form a lamellar transverse profile. This latter feature may itself contribute to membrane inexcitability while the former is consistent with an elevated space constant for electrotonic conduction. 7. It is concluded that the inhomogeneous distribution of membrane excitability in AGR enhances the integrative capability of the receptor's dendrites, permitting mechanical input at diverse loci to be encoded and processed prior to transformation into axonal discharge.