The first-order giant neurons of the giant fiber system in the squid: electrophysiological and ultrastructural observations. Academic Article uri icon


  • The giant fiber system controlling mantle contraction used for jet propulsion in squid consists of two sets of three giant neurons organized in tandem. The somata of the 1st- and 2nd-order giant cells are located in the brain, while the perikarya of the 3rd-order giant cells are encountered in the stellate ganglia of the mantle. The somata and dendrites of one fused pair of 1st-order giant cells are thought to receive synaptic input from the eye, statocyst, skin proprioceptors, and supraesophageal lobes. To define the cellular properties for integration of such an extensive synaptic load, especially given its diversity, intracellular recordings and electron microscopic observations were performed on 1st-order giant cells in an isolated head preparation. Spontaneous bursts of action potentials and spikes evoked by extracellular stimulation of the brachial lobe were sensitive to the Na+ channel blocker TTX. Action potentials were also abolished by recording with microelectrodes containing the membrane impermeant, use dependent Na+ channel blocker QX-314. The small action potential amplitude and the abundant synaptic input imply that the spike initiation zone is remotely located from the recording site. The high spontaneous activity in the isolated head preparation, as well as the presence of synaptic junctions resembling inhibitory synapses, suggest; that afferent synapses on 1st-order giant neurons might represent the inhibitory control of the giant fiber system. The characterization of the electroresponsive properties of the 1st-order giant neurons will provide a description of the single cell integrative properties that trigger the rapid jet propulsion necessary for escape behavior in squid.

publication date

  • June 1998