The cardiac ganglion of the mudpuppy is situated on a thin sheet of tissue. Two nerve cell types can be distinguished readily in the living preparation, principal cells and smaller interneurones which synapse with the principal cells. The purpose of this study was to investigate synaptic transmission and the functional organization of neuronal connexions of ganglion cells with intracellular micro electrodes. Stimulation of the preganglionic, vagus, nerves evoked a large excitatory response in principal cells. About three quarters of these neurones were innervated by a single vagal axon. The remaining cells received two or more preganglionic nerve fibres. The quantum content of vagal excitatory post synaptic potentials (e.p.s.p.s) was measured. Normally, the e.p.s.p. was suprathreshold and consisted of about twenty two quanta, whereas only about nine quanta were required to reach threshold and initiate an action potential. Intracellular stimulation of principal cells evoked e.p.s.p.s. in neighbouring principal cells. The responses were blocked by cholinergic antagonists. These potentials were caused by excitation of principal cell axon collateral synapses. Principal cells also formed electrical junctions with each other. These electrical junctions were very weak. Although they transmitted slow potential changes, only a small response was recorded in one cell when an electrically coupled neighbouring cell fired an impulse. The resistance of the electrical junction between principal cells was calculated to be about 5-8x108Ω. Stable penetrations of interneurones were only rarely achieved, making it difficult to study their functional relationship to principal cells. Action potentials were recorded from interneurones in a few instances. These data demonstrate that parasympathetic ganglion cells in the heart of the mudpuppy receive innervation from more than one source involving both chemical and electrical synapses, and that some of the synapses are intrinsic to the ganglion.
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