Structural and functional characterization of a muscle tendon proprioceptor in lobster

J Comp Neurol. 1995 Dec 11;363(2):221-34. doi: 10.1002/cne.903630205.


A morphological and electrophysiological study was made on a unique primary mechanosensory neuron, the anterior gastric receptor (AGR), previously shown to arise from power-stroke muscle gm1 of the gastric mill system in the lobster foregut. Ultrastructural analysis of horseradish peroxidase injected AGR demonstrated that its peripheral dendrites do not ramify in muscle but are confined strictly to the connective tissue/epidermal interface in the tendon of gm1. These terminals are rich in mitochondria and at their very endings are free of glial cell wrapping, suggesting that they are the site at which mechano-transduction occurs. Extracellular axonal recordings from an in vitro neuromuscular preparation consisting of the gm1 muscle still attached to the stomatogastric nervous system, revealed that AGR is activated by passive stretch of gm1. The response to ramp stimuli displays dynamic and static components, both of which increase with the amplitude of applied stretch, while the dynamic component is also velocity sensitive. AGR is also activated by muscle contraction here elicited either by application of exogenous acetylcholine, the excitatory neurotransmitter for gm1, or by electrical stimulation of the motoneurons (GM) themselves. Consistent with a receptor lying in-series with its muscle, therefore, the effective stimulus of AGR in vivo is probably an increase in tension exerted on the tendon during active muscle contraction. In neuromuscular preparations including the bilateral commissural ganglia, stretching gm1 reflexly activates GM motoneurons at low stimulus strengths but leads to an inactivation of GM motoneurons at high stimulus strengths. This is consistent with earlier findings that both responses can be elicited by direct electrical stimulation of AGR. The functional implications of AGR's anatomical relationship with muscle gm1, the receptor's response properties, and its central effects on motor output to gm1 are discussed. Comparison is also drawn between this first reported example of a true tendon receptor in invertebrates and muscle receptors of vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Gastrointestinal Motility / physiology*
  • Nephropidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Nephropidae / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure*
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Tendons / anatomy & histology*
  • Tendons / physiology