When complex neuronal structures may not matter

Elife. 2017 Feb 6;6:e23508. doi: 10.7554/eLife.23508.


Much work has explored animal-to-animal variability and compensation in ion channel expression. Yet, little is known regarding the physiological consequences of morphological variability. We quantify animal-to-animal variability in cable lengths (CV = 0.4) and branching patterns in the Gastric Mill (GM) neuron, an identified neuron type with highly-conserved physiological properties in the crustacean stomatogastric ganglion (STG) of Cancer borealis. We examined passive GM electrotonic structure by measuring the amplitudes and apparent reversal potentials (Erevs) of inhibitory responses evoked with focal glutamate photo-uncaging in the presence of TTX. Apparent Erevs were relatively invariant across sites (mean CV ± SD = 0.04 ± 0.01; 7-20 sites in each of 10 neurons), which ranged between 100-800 µm from the somatic recording site. Thus, GM neurons are remarkably electrotonically compact (estimated λ > 1.5 mm). Electrotonically compact structures, in consort with graded transmission, provide an elegant solution to observed morphological variability in the STG.

Keywords: Cancer borealis; electrotonus; morphology; neuroscience; stomatogastric ganglion; variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Brachyura
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / anatomy & histology*
  • Ganglia, Invertebrate / physiology*
  • Gizzard, Non-avian / innervation*
  • Nerve Net / anatomy & histology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*