The action potential which elicits luminescence in Noctiluca is recorded from the flotation vacuole as a transient all-or-none hyperpolarization in response to either local or general application of inward (bath to vacuole) current. Experiments were performed to determine whether the unorthodox polarities of both the stimulus current and the potential response resulted from uncommon bioelectric mechanisms or from special morphological features of this species. The findings all indicate that the action potential belongs to the familiar class of responses which have their origin in voltage- and time-dependent selective increases in membrane permeability, and that morphological factors account for the observed deviations from normal behavior. Both the stimulus and the response have orthodox polarities provided the vacuole is designated as an "external" extracytoplasmic compartment. Differential recording between vacuole and cytoplasm showed that the action potential occurs across the vacuolar membrane, with the cytoplasmic potential, which at rest is negative with respect to the vacuole, overshooting zero and reversing sign to become transiently electropositive. The rising phase of the action potential therefore depends on active current flow through the vacuolar membrane from the vacuole into the cytoplasm. Propagation of the action potential over the subspherical cell from the locus of stimulation is thought to depend largely on the core conductor properties of the thin perivacuolar shell of cytoplasm which is bounded on its inner surface by the excitable membrane and on its outer surface by inexcitable membranes.

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