Light transmission changes upon massive stimulation of single muscle fibers of Xenopus were studied with the potential-sensitive nonpermeant dyes, merocyanine rhodanine (WW375) and merocyanine oxazolone (NK2367). Upon stimulation an absorption change (wave a) occurred, which probably represents the sum of action potentials in the transverse tubules and surface membrane. In WW375-stained fibers wave a is a decrease in transmission over the range of 630 to 730 nm (with NK2367, over the range of 590 to 700 nm) but becomes an increase outside this range, thus showing a triphasic spectral pattern. This spectrum differs from that of the squid axon, in which depolarization produces only an increase in transmission over the whole range of wavelengths (Ross et al. 1977. J. Membr. Biol. 33:141-183). When wave a was measured at the edge of the fiber to obtain more signal from the surface membrane, the spectrum did not seem to differ markedly from that obtained from the entire width of the fiber. Thus, the difference in the spectrum between the squid axon and the vertebrate muscle cannot be attributed to the presence of the tubular system.

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