Under certain conditions only, isolated crayfish skeletal muscle fibers change in appearance, becoming grainy, darkening, and seemingly losing their striations. These changes result from development of large vesicles on both sides of the Z-line. The longitudinal sarcoplasmic reticulum remains unaffected. The vesicles are due to swelling of a transverse tubular system (TTS) which is presumably homologous with the T-system tubules of other muscle fibers. The vesiculations occur during efflux of water or on reducing external K or Cl, but only when KCl can leave the fiber. They never result from osmotic, ionic, or electrical changes when KCl cannot leave. Inward currents, applied through a KCl-filled intracellular cathode, also cause the vesiculations. These are not produced when the cathode is filled with K-propionate, nor by outward or longitudinal currents. Thus the transverse tubules swell only when Cl leaves the cell. Accordingly, their membrane is largely or exclusively anion-permselective. These findings also indicate that the TTS forms part of a current loop, connecting with the exterior of the fiber probably through radial tubules (RT) possessing membrane of low conductivity. Thus, part of the current flowing inward across the sarcolemma during activity can return to the exterior through the membrane of the TTS. The structure and properties of the latter offer the possibility for an efficient electrical mechanism to initiate excitation-contraction coupling.

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