The mechanism of the contractions elicited by specific antigens in immunologically sensitized muscle tissue (Schultz-Dale responses) has been investigated on single fibers of denervated guinea pig hemidiaphragms. This preparation can be either actively or passively allergized, showing Schultz-Dale responses similar to those of visceral muscle. Specific antigens were applied with an electrically operated microtap to discrete areas of the cell surface while recording the electrical activity with intracellular microelectrodes. In this manner, a depolarizing action of the antigens on the muscle membrane was demonstrated. Brief applications of antigen gave rise to phasic potential changes (antigen potentials) similar to those elicited in the same fibers with acetylcholine-filled microtaps. However, antigen potentials occur only in denervated fibers sensitized to the specific antigen or closely related proteins; they are not seen in either innervated fibers of allergized animals or in denervated, nonallergized fibers. Repeated antigen application to the same area of the fiber causes a local irreversible desensitization. The antigen potentials are associated with a reduction in the resistance of the muscle membrane, similar to that caused by acetylcholine. It is concluded that besides causing the liberation of biogenic amines from the mast cells, antigens exert a direct action on the permeability of the muscle membrane; the molecules of antibody adsorbed to the cells appear to act as specific chemoreceptors for the antigen.

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