When current damped, skate electroreceptor epithelium produces large action potentials in response to stimuli that depolarize the lumenal faces of the receptor cells. With increasing stimulus strength these action potentials become prolonged. When the peak voltage exceeds about 140 mV the repolarizing phase is blocked until the end of the stimulus. Perfusion experiments show that the rising phase of the action potential results from an increase in calcium permeability in the lumenal membranes. Perfusion of the lumen with cobalt or with a zero calcium solution containing EGTA blocks the action potential. Perfusion of the lumen with a solution containing 10 mM Ca and 20 mM EGTA initially slows the repolarizing process at all voltages and lowers the potential at which it is blocked. With prolonged perfusion, repolarization is blocked at all voltages. When excitability is abolished by perfusion with cobalt, or with a zero calcium solution containing EGTA, no delayed rectification occurs. We suggest that repolarization during the action potential depends on an influx of calcium into the cytoplasm, and that the rate of repolarization depends on the magnitude of the inward calcium current. Increasingly large stimuli reduce the rate of repolarization by reducing the driving force for calcium, and then block repolarization by causing the lumenal membrane potential to exceed ECa. Changes in extracellular calcium affect repolarization in a manner consistent with the resulting change in ECa.
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