Close appositions between axonal membranes are present in the septum between adjacent axonal segments of the septate or lateral giant axons of the crayfish Procambarus. In sections the closely apposed membranes appear separated by a space or gap. The use of lanthanum indicates that there may be structures connecting the apposed membranes. The apparent gap is actually a network of channels continuous with the extracellular space. Adjacent axonal segments are electrotonically coupled at the septa. The coupling resistance is increased by mechanical injury of an axon, immersion in low Cl− solutions, and immersion in low Ca++ solutions, followed by a return to normal physiological solution. Septa at which coupling resistance had been measured were examined in the electron microscope. The induced increases in coupling resistance are associated with separation of the junctional membranes (with the exception of the moderate increases during immersion in low Ca++ solutions). Schwann cell processes are present between the separated axonal membranes. When nerve cords in low Cl− solutions are returned to normal physiological solution, coupling, i.e., electrotonic synapses. A model of an electrotonic synapse is proposed in which tween axonal membranes are again found. The association between the morphological and physiological findings provides further evidence that the junctions are the sites of electrotonic coupling, i.e., electrotonic, synapses. A model of an electrotonic synapse is proposed in which intercytoplasmic channels not open to the extracellular space are interlaced with a hexagonal network of extracellular channels between the apposed junctional membranes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology