The membrane effects, and sensitivity to strychnine, of neural inhibition of the Mauthner cell, and its inhibition by glycine and GABA

J. Diamond, S. Roper, G. M. Yasargil

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32 Scopus citations


1. Anionic conductance changes in Mauthner neurones of goldfish were measured during synaptically evoked inhibition and inhibition caused by iontophoretic application of the putative inhibitory transmitters glycine and γ‐aminobutyric acid (GABA). 2. The effects of either amino acid were indistinguishable from those of the neural inhibitory transmitter(s). The membrane permeability during the neural or drug response was increased to Br, Cl, I, SCN, NO3, ClO3, and formate (HCOO), but not to HCO3, BrO3, IO3, SO4, HPO4, H2PO4, acetate and citrate. 3. Strychnine was injected intramuscularly, iontophoretically, or applied topically to the exposed brain in order to compare quantitatively its ability to prevent inhibition evoked by synaptic activation and by pharmacological means. Inhibitions were measured by the increase in membrane conductance. 4. Strychnine, at concentrations just adequate to block completely the late collateral inhibition (LCI) and crossed VIII nerve inhibition, had little effect on the pharmacological inhibition caused by glycine, and sometimes there was no detectable effect at all. In one experiment even a local iontophoretic application of strychnine in a sufficient dose to diffuse over the cell and block the LCI almost completely, merely halved the effect of a small dose of glycine applied to the same localized region of the membrane. 5. Higher concentrations of strychnine than those necessary to block synaptically evoked inhibition would reduce the effect of glycine but not that of GABA. The evidence indicated that any apparent effect of strychnine upon GABA could be explained by displacement of the GABA‐containing iontophoretic pipette. 6. The glycine‐blocking action of iontophoretic pulses of strychnine was of relatively very slow onset and long duration compared to the effects of pulses of glycine and GABA. 7. These findings can be interpreted as either (1) strychnine has a presynaptic action, preventing the release of inhibitory neurotransmitter, in addition to its less potent post‐synaptic one in blocking pharmacological inhibition, or (2) strychnine acts entirely post‐synaptically, but the physiological transmitter action differs from that of glycine and GABA in being considerably more sensitive to strychnine antagonism. In either case, the use of strychnine as evidence for the claim that glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter at the Mauthner cell is questionable.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-111
Number of pages25
JournalThe Journal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 1973
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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