Selective dispersion of melanosomes was often observed after iontophoretic injection of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (AMP) from a glass microelectrode positioned in a target melanophore in frog skin (as viewed from above through a microscope), with other melanophores in the field serving as controls. Because the skin has orderly arrays of several types of closely spaced cells, it is probable that at times the microelectrode also impales cells other than melanophores. When cyclic AMP injection inside a cell resulted in dispersion of melanosomes from a perinuclear position into dendritic processes, the onset of dispersion was relatively rapid, in many cases less than 4 min (mean time of onset, 5.3 +/- 2.9 [SD] min). A much slower dispersion (mean time of onset, 19.0 +/- 5.0 min) of melanosomes was observed when the microelectrode was positioned adjacent to a melanophore, and much larger quantities of cyclic AMP were released. In addition, no changes were observed for injections of 5'-AMP or cyclic guanosine monophosphate (GMP) through electrodes positioned inside or adjacent to melanophores. Potential measurements showed that after impaling a clell, a constant transmembrane potential could often be recorded over many minutes, indicating that the membrane tends to seal around the microelectrode. The results indicate that cyclic AMP acts more rapidly on the inside of a cell than when applied outside a cell and allowed to diffuse through the plasma membrane. This study introduces a model system whereby the properties of the plasma membrane and melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH) receptors can be studies within a single target cell.

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