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Biochim Biophys Acta. 1976 Jul 15;436(4):833-42.

Alteration of birefringence signals from squid giant axons by intracellular perfusion with protease solution.


The optical signal, arising from a transient birefringence change associated with excitation, was recorded from a squid giant axon together with the membrane potential change, and the effect of removal of the axoplasm on the optical signal was examined. In an unperfused axon, repetitive stimulation at a frequency of about 100 Hz produced two kinds of optical response. The initial response had a brief, spike-like time course and was elicited by each stimulating pulse. The delayed response had a slow time course and the sign of decreased light intensity, and summated with repetitive stimulation. Most of the axoplasm was removed from interior of the axon by intracellular perfusion with solutions containing pronase at a concentration of 0.1 mg/ml. The delayed response could selectively be eliminated by perfusion with a pronase-containing solution for 2-8 min. The result was interpreted as showing that the delayed birefringence signal originates from axoplasm when its gel structure was transiently disturbed by an increased Ca2+ influx associated with excitation. When perfusion was further continued the duration of the action potential started increasing and often a prominent after-depolarization appeared. At this stage the initial optical response was again followed by a large slow signal with the sign of increased light intensity. This reversed delayed response was tentatively assumed to originate from the membrane with some remaining axoplasm, but its cause is still not understood.

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