Sustaining olfaction at low salinities: evidence for a paracellular route of ion movement from the hemolymph to the sensillar lymph in the olfactory sensilla of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus.
Evidence reported previously suggests that in low-salinity conditions the integrity of the olfactory dendrites of the blue crab is sustained by a diffusion-generated ionic microenvironment within the aesthetascs. Diffusion of ions from the hemolymph to the sensillar lymph is proposed to maintain this microenvironment. In this study, using lanthanum as an electron-dense marker of extracellular fluid space, we find morphological evidence for paracellular continuity between the hemolymph and the sensillar lymph. Lanthanum penetrates extracellular fluid spaces within the aesthetascs when antennules are either perfused or bathed externally with solutions containing lanthanum nitrate. This was found in both freshwater- and seawater-acclimated animals. Evidence for ion diffusion from the aesthetascs was obtained using self-referencing, ion-selective microelectrodes. Both Ca2+ and K+ exhibit outwardly directed flux gradients associated with the aesthetasc tuft in low-salinity conditions. These findings are consistent with the concept that ion diffusion from the hemolymph to the sensillar lymph generates an ionic/osmotic microenvironment within the aesthetascs at low salinities.