Ionic Mechanisms Controlling Behavioral Responses of Paramecium to Mechanical Stimulation

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Science  23 May 1969:
Vol. 164, Issue 3882, pp. 963-965
DOI: 10.1126/science.164.3882.963


A mechanical stimulus applied to the anterior part of Paramecium causes a transient increase in membrane permeability to calcium. This permits a calcium current to flow into the cell, causing the membrane potential to approach the equilibrium level for calcium. The transient depolarization which results elicits a reversal in the direction of ciliary beat. When the organisms are free-swimming this is seen as the reversed locomotion of Jennings' "avoiding reaction." In contrast, a mechanical stimulus applied to the posterior part results in increased permeability to potassium ions, and hence an outward potassium current. The hyperpolarization which results causes an increase in the frequency of ciliary beat in the normal direction. In free-swimming specimens this is seen as an increase in the velocity of forward locomotion.