The olfactory mucosa of the frog was isolated, folded (the outer, ciliated side faced outward), and separately superfused with Ringers solution on each side. A small number of sensory cilia (one to three) were pulled into the orifice of a patch pipette and current was recorded from them. Fast bipolar current transients, indicating the generation of action potentials by the receptor cells, were transmitted to the pipette, mainly through the ciliary capacitance. Basal activity was near 1.5 spikes s-1. Exposure of apical membrane areas outside of the pipette to permeant analogues of cyclic nucleotides, to forskolin, and to phosphodiesterase inhibitors resulted in a dose-dependent acceleration of spike rate of all cells investigated. Values of 10-20 s-1 were reached. These findings lend further support to the notion that cyclic nucleotides act as second messengers, which cause graded membrane depolarization and thereby a graded increase in spike rate. The stationary spike rate induced by forskolin was very regular, while phosphodiesterase inhibitors caused (in the same cell) an irregular pattern of bursts of spikes. The response of spike rate was phasic-tonic in the case of strong stimulation, even when elicited by inhibitors of phosphodiesterase or by analogues of cyclic nucleotides that are not broken down by the enzyme. Thus, one of the mechanisms contributing to desensitization appears to operate at the level of the nucleotide-induced ciliary conductance. However, desensitization at this level was slow and only partial, in contrast to results obtained with isolated, voltage-clamped receptor cells.

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