Inhibitory and excitatory synapses in crayfish stretch receptor organs studied with direct rapid-freezing and freeze-substitution

J Comp Neurol. 1983 Jan 1;213(1):66-73. doi: 10.1002/cne.902130106.


Crayfish abdominal stretch receptor organs are innervated by inhibitory (GABA) and excitatory (glutamate) synapses. Previous studies with aldehyde fixation showed that synaptic vesicles in the inhibitory synapse are flat and small, whereas those in the excitatory synapse are rounder and larger. We have reexamined these inhibitory and excitatory synapses by using direct rapid-freezing and freeze-substitution in order to preserve synaptic structure closer to its living state. Fine details of synaptic structure appear to be better preserved by this method. Synaptic vesicles in inhibitory as well as excitatory synapses are round, so the conventional flattened shape of vesicles in the inhibitory synapse must depend on some aspect of aldehyde processing. However, the average size of vesicles in the inhibitory synapse is significantly smaller than that of vesicles in the excitatory synapse, so synaptic vesicle size is regarded as having functional significance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astacoidea / anatomy & histology*
  • Freezing
  • Histological Techniques
  • Mechanoreceptors / ultrastructure*
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Neuromuscular Junction / ultrastructure
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Vesicles / ultrastructure