Localized Ca2+ and calcium-activated potassium conductances in terminals of a barnacle photoreceptor

Nature. 1984 May;309(5965):266-8. doi: 10.1038/309266a0.


Calcium channels are found in the presynaptic terminals of neurones, where they have a key role in synaptic transmission. They are also found in the somata of many cells, in dendrites and along a few axons. In no cell is the actual distribution of these channels known in detail, because there are no known toxins or other agents suitable for labelling calcium channels, and the current through these channels is usually too small to be quantified with extracellular electrodes. However, several experiments have suggested that the density of the channels is less in the axon than in the cell body or terminal region. Here we have used the indicator dye Arsenazo III in conjunction with an array of photodetectors to examine the spatial influx of calcium in the presynaptic terminal region of the giant barnacle, Balanus nubilus. In these cells, calcium entry occurs in a restricted region less than 50 micron in length, which corresponds closely to the region of synaptic contact with second-order cells. Outside this area the magnitude of calcium entry is reduced at least 50-fold. With reasonable assumptions it follows that the calcium channel density is equally localized. In addition, we demonstrate that these cells have a calcium-activated potassium conductance. Since calcium entry is restricted to the synaptic zone, this conductance must be effective only in this region.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Photoreceptor Cells / physiology*
  • Potassium / physiology*
  • Thoracica / physiology*


  • Ion Channels
  • Potassium
  • Calcium