Structural complexes in the squid giant axon membrane sensitive to ionic concentrations and cardiac glycosides
Giant nerve fibers of squid Sepioteuthis sepiodea were incubated for 10 min in artificial sea water (ASW) under control conditions, in the absence of various ions, and in the presence of cardiac glycosides. The nerve fibers were fixed in OsO(4) and embedded in Epon, and structural complexes along the axolemma were studied. These complexes consist of a portion of axolemma exhibiting a three-layered substructure, an undercoating of a dense material (approximately 0.1μm in length and approximately 70-170 A in thickness), and a narrowing to disappearance of the axon-Schwann cell interspace. In the controls, the incidence of complexes per 1,000μm of axon perimeter was about 137. This number decreased to 10-25 percent when magnesium was not present in the incubating media, whatever the calcium concentration (88, 44, or 0 mM). In the presence of magnesium, the number and structural features of the complexes were preserved, though the number decreased to 65 percent when high calcium was simultaneously present. The complexes were also modified and decreased to 26-32 percent by incubating the nerves in solutions having low concentrations of sodium and potassium. The adding of 10(-5) M ouabain or strophanthoside to normal ASW incubating solution decreased them to 20-40 percent. Due to their sensitivity to changes in external ionic concentrations and to the presence of cardiac glycosides, the complexes are proposed to represent the structural correlate of specialized sites for active ion transport, although other factors may be involved.