Mode of operation of ampullae of lorenzini of the skate, Raja

S. Obara, V. L. Bennett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Ampullae of Lorenzini are sensitive electroreceptors. Applied potentials affect receptor cells which transmit synaptically to afferent fibers. Cathodal stimuli in the ampullary lumen sometimes evoke all-or-none "receptor spikes," which are negative-going recorded in the lumen, but more frequently they evoke graded damped oscillations. Cathodal stimuli evoke nerve discharge, usually at stimulus strengths subthreshold for obvious receptor oscillations or spikes. Anodal stimuli decrease any ongoing spontaneous nerve activity. Cathodal stimuli evoke long-lasting depolarizations (generator or postsynaptic potentials) in afferent fibers. Superimposed antidromic spikes are reduced in amplitude, suggesting that the postsynaptic potentials are generated similarly to other excitatory postsynaptic potentials. Anodal stimuli evoke hyperpolarizations of nerves in preparations with tonic activity and in occasional silent preparations; presumably tonic release of excitatory transmitter is decreased. These data are explicable as follows: lumenal faces of receptor cells are tonically (but asynchronously) active generating depolarizing responses. Cathodal stimuli increase this activity, thereby leading to increased depolarization of and increased release of transmitter from serosal faces, which are inexcitable. Anodal stimuli act oppositely. Receptor spikes result from synchronized receptor cell activity. Since cathodal stimuli act directly to hyperpolarize serosal faces, strong cathodal stimuli overcome depolarizing effects of lumenal face activity and are inhibitory. Conversely, strong anodal stimuli depolarize serosal faces, thereby causing release of transmitter, and are excitatory. These properties explain several anomalous features of responses of ampullae of Lorenzini.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-557
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 1972
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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