Electrophysiological control of ciliary motor responses in the ctenophore Pleurobrachia. Academic Article uri icon


  • Prey capture by a tentacle of the ctenophore Pleurobrachia elicits a reversal of beat direction and increase in beat frequency of comb plates in rows adjacent to the catching tentacle (Tamm and Moss 1985). These ciliary motor responses were elicited in intact animals by repetitive electrical stimulation of a tentacle or the midsubtentacular body surface with a suction electrode. An isolated split-comb row preparation allowed stable intracellular recording from comb plate cells during electrically stimulated motor responses of the comb plates, which were imaged by high-speed video microscopy. During normal beating in the absence of electrical stimulation, comb plate cells showed no changes in the resting membrane potential, which was typically about -60 mV. Trains of electrical impulses (5/s, 5 ms duration, at 5-15 V) delivered by an extracellular suction electrode elicited summing facilitating synaptic potentials which gave rise to graded regenerative responses. High K+ artificial seawater caused progressive depolarization of the polster cells which led to volleys of action potentials. Current injection (depolarizing or release from hyperpolarizing current) also elicited regenerative responses; the rate of rise and the peak amplitude were graded with intensity of stimulus current beyond a threshold value of about -40 mV. Increasing levels of subthreshold depolarization were correlated with increasing rates of beating in the normal direction. Action potentials were accompanied by laydown (upward curvature of nonbeating plates), reversed beating at high frequency, and intermediate beat patterns. TEA increased the summed depolarization elicited by pulse train stimulation, as well as the size and duration of the action potentials. TEA-enhanced single action potentials evoked a sudden arrest, laydown and brief bout of reversed beating. Dual electrode impalements showed that cells in the same comb plate ridge experienced similar but not identical electrical activity, even though all of their cilia beat synchronously. The large number of cells making up a comb plate, their highly asymmetric shape, and their complex innervation and electrical characteristics present interesting features of bioelectric control not found in other cilia.

publication date

  • April 1986