The ultrastructure of giant fibre and serial synapses in crayfish

Research paper by Charles A. Stirling

Indexed on: 01 Mar '72Published on: 01 Mar '72Published in: Cell and Tissue Research


The ultrastructure of synapses between the cord giant fibres (lateral and medial) and the motor giant fibres in crayfish, Astacus pallipes, third abdominal ganglia have been examined. These electrotonic synapses are asymmetrical, they have synaptic vesicles only in the presynaptic fibre, and they have synaptic cleft widths normally of about 100 Å but narrowed to about 50 Å in restricted areas. Localized increases in density of the synaptic cleft and adjacent membranes also occur within a synapse, and synaptic vesicles are most tightly grouped at the membrane in such areas. Tight or gap junctions with 30 Å or narrower widths have not been found, but the junctions probably function in a similar way to gap junctions.Three small nerves are closely associated with the synapses between the giant fibres. One of these small nerves has round synaptic vesicles and is thought to be excitatory on morphological grounds; one has flattened vesicles and is thought to be inhibitory; and one is postsynaptic to the lateral giant and the two small presynaptic nerves. It is proposed that these small nerves modulate activity in the much larger giant fibre synapse.