Conductances contributing to the action potential of Sternopygus electrocytes

J Comp Physiol A. 1993 Sep;173(3):281-92. doi: 10.1007/BF00212692.


In Sternopygus macrurus, electrocyte action potential duration determines the electric organ discharge pulse duration. Since the electric organ discharge is a sexually-dimorphic behavior under the control of steroid hormones, and because electrocyte action potential durations can range from 3-14 ms, the electrocytes provide a unique opportunity to study how sex steroids regulate membrane excitability. In this study, the voltage-sensitive ionic currents of electrocytes were identified under current- and voltage-clamp as a prelude to further studies on their regulation by sex steroid hormones. Bath application of TTX completely abolished the spike and eliminated an inward current under voltage clamp, indicating that the action potential is due primarily to a sodium current. Calcium-free saline had no effect on spike waveform or voltage-clamp currents, indicating that neither calcium nor calcium-dependent currents contribute to the action potential. Application of potassium channel blocking agents, such as tetraethylammonium and cesium ions, caused changes in the spike which, together with voltage-clamp results, indicate the presence of two potassium currents: an inward rectifier and a classical delayed rectifier. In addition, these cells have a large, presumably voltage-insensitive, chloride current. Differences in one or more of these currents could be responsible for the range of action potential durations found in these cells and for the steroid-mediated changes in spike duration.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Electric Fish / physiology*
  • Electric Organ / cytology
  • Electric Organ / innervation
  • Electric Organ / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / physiology
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / drug effects
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Potassium Channels / drug effects
  • Sodium Channels / drug effects
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Potassium Channels
  • Sodium Channels
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Calcium