Photoinactivation of the crayfish segmental giant neuron reveals a direct giant-fiber to fast-flexor connection with a chemical component

K. Fraser, W. J. Heitler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The escape tail flip of the crayfish is ''commanded'' by 2 sets of giant-fiber (GF) interneurons. In each hemisegment, these drive the motor giant (MoG) abdominal flexor motorneuron through a monosynaptic electrical connection, but the remaining 8 or 9 fast-flexor (FF) motorneurons receive most of their input via a disynaptic electrical pathway through the segmental giant (SG) neuron. We have investigated a monosynaptic GF-FF pathway, which operates in parallel to the disynaptic GF-SG-FF pathway, by using dye-mediated photoinactivation to remove the SGs from the tail-flip circuit. SG photoinactivation involves an initial broadening of the spike, leading to a long-duration, massively depolarized plateau. This is followed by loss of spike capability, a gradual reduction in the resting potential, and eventual total loss of electrical responsiveness. After bilateral photoinactivation of the SGs, a spike in one set of GFs, the medial giants (MGs), produces little if any effect in FFs in any ganglion. A spike in the other set, the lateral giants (LGs), produces an EPSP in FFs with a declining anterior-to-posterior segmental gradient in amplitude. These differences in LG and MG outputs, which are obscured in the intact circuit by the common MG/LG-SG-FF pathway, give clues to a probable early evolutionary form of the circuit. The LG-FF connection in anterior ganglia has a significant electrical component. However, it also has an apparent monosynaptic chemical component, as revealed by the response to saline containing cadmium ions, and to cooling the preparation. This is the first physiological evidence for chemical output from a crayfish GF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-71
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1991


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