Thin-section and freeze-fracture studies of crayfish stretch receptor synapses including the reciprocal inhibitory synapse

J Comp Neurol. 1981 Jul 20;200(1):39-53. doi: 10.1002/cne.902000104.


The crayfish slow-adapting abdominal stretch receptor organ is innervated by three inhibitory and several excitatory axons. A previous study by Tisdale and Nakajima ('76) showed that under certain fixation conditions inhibitory and excitatory synapses can be distinguished on the basis of synaptic vesicle structure. Using this morphological criterion we describe six types of synapses in the receptor: (1) the inhibitory axo-dendritic synapse, (2) the excitatory neuromuscular synapse, (3) the inhibitory neuromuscular synapse, (4) the axo-axonic synapse which suggests presynaptic inhibition of the excitatory synapse, (5) the axo-axonic synapse which suggests presynaptic inhibition on the inhibitory synapse, (6) the reciprocal inhibitory axo-axonic synapse, which is a new type of synapse. The presence of these six types of synapse suggest that inhibitory and excitatory axons interact synaptically in a complicated manner, resulting in a delicate control of receptor function. In freeze fracture we have observed the presynaptic membrane structures of inhibitory and excitatory synapses. The active zone of the inhibitory synapse has ridges with loosely aggregated particles on the tops of the ridges and indentations (vesicle attachment sites) along their sides. The active zone of the excitatory neuromuscular synapse consists of bands of particle aggregates which are situated on slightly elevated membrane regions and surrounded by wide, relatively particle-free, flat membrane areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astacoidea
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Connective Tissue / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Freeze Fracturing
  • Mechanoreceptors / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neural Inhibition*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / ultrastructure*
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure