Using a "slit camera" recording technique, we have examined the effects of local laser irradiation of cilia of the gill epithelium of Mytilus edulis. The laser produces a lesion which interrupts epithelial integrity. In artificial sea water that contains high K+ or is effectively Ca++ free, metachronism of the lateral cilia continues to either side of the lesion with only minor perturbations in frequency synchronization and wave velocity, such as would be expected if metachronal wave coordination is mechanical. However, in normal sea water and other appropriate ionic conditions (i.e., where Ca++ concentration is elevated), in addition to local damage, the laser induces distinct arrest responses of the lateral cilia. Arrest is not mechanically coordinated, since cilia stop in sequence depending on stroke position as well as distance from the lesion. The velocity of arrest under standard conditions is about 3 mm/s, several orders of magnitude faster than spreading velocities associated with diffusion of materials from the injured region. Two responses can be distinguished on the basis of the kinetics of recovery of the arrested regions. These are (a) a nondecremental response that resembles spontaneous ciliary stoppage in the gills, and (b) a decremental response, where arrest nearer the stimulus point is much longer lasting. The slower recovery is often periodic, with a step size approximating lateral cell length. Arrest responses with altered kinetics also occur in laterofrontal cilia. The responses of Mytilus lateral cilia resemble the spreading ciliary arrest seen in Elliptio and arrest induced by electrical and other stimuli, and the decremental response may depend upon electrotonic spread of potential change produced at the stimulus site. If this were coupled to transient changes in Ca++ permeability of the cell membrane, a local rise in Ca++ concentration might inhibit ciliary beat at a sensitive point in the stroke cycle to produce the observed arrest.

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