Intracellular microelectrodes inserted into the soma of crayfish stretch receptor neurons record frequent fluctuations of the membrane potential. Time course, amplitude, and interval distribution indicate that they are miniature potentials. At the average resting potential the polarity of the miniature potentials depends on the anion used in the microelectrode: KCl electrodes record depolarizing, K citrate or K2SO4 electrodes, hyperpolarizing miniature potentials. The inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (i.p.s.p.'s) show a similar polarity change. The reversal potentials of i.p.s.p.'s and miniature potentials are equal and within 10 mv of the resting potential, more negative with K citrate (or K2SO4), less negative with KCl electrodes. Reversal can be accomplished by changing the membrane potential by stretching or by current passing. Injection of Cl- into the soma or replacement of external Cl by propionate results in an abrupt increase of the amplitude of the miniature potentials lasting for several minutes. The miniature potentials like the i.p.s.p.'s are reversibly abolished by the application of picrotoxin and γ-aminobutyric acid. They are not affected by tetrodotoxin, nor by acetylocholine, eserine, or atropine. It is concluded that the miniature potentials represent a spontaneous quantal release of transmitter substance from inhibitory nerve terminals, and that the transmitter substance predominantly increases the Cl- permeability of the postsynaptic membrane. The effect of the spontaneously released transmitter on the behavior of the receptor neuron is considerable. The membrane conductance is increased by up to 36% and the excitability is correspondingly depressed.

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