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1. Isolated longitudinal muscle-myenteric plexus preparations from guinea-pig ileum were used to investigate the activity of myenteric neurons when the tissue was stretched in the circumferential direction. Membrane potentials were recorded via flexibly mounted intracellular recording electrodes containing Neurobiotin in 1 M KCl. The preparations were stretched to constant widths (+20% and +40% beyond slack width). 2. Multipolar neurons (Dogiel type II morphology) discharged spontaneous action potentials and proximal process potentials during maintained stretching, three of twenty-one at +20% stretch and seven of nine at +40% stretch. At the maximum extent of stretch tried, +40% beyond slack tissue width, action potentials in Dogiel type II neurons occurred at 10-33 Hz. Neurons with other morphologies were all uniaxonal. Some displayed spontaneous fast EPSPs or action potentials, three of forty one at +20% stretch and seven of nineteen at +40% stretch. 3. In seven of eight Dogiel type II neurons, action potentials or proximal process potentials persisted when membrane hyperpolarization was imposed via the recording electrode. Action potential discharge was abolished by hyperpolarization in seven of nine uniaxonal neurons; the exceptions were two orally projecting neurons. 4. Dogiel type II and uniaxonal neurons were classified as rapidly accommodating if they discharged action potentials only at the beginning of a 500 ms intracellular depolarizing pulse and slowly accommodating if they discharged for more than 250 ms. For Dogiel type II neurons, three of thirteen were slowly accommodating at +20% stretch and two of four at 40% stretch. For uniaxonal neurons the corresponding data were twelve of twenty-six and fifteen of nineteen neurons. The slowly accommodating state was associated with increased cell input resistance in uniaxonal neurons. 5. The spontaneous action potential discharge in Dogiel type II and uniaxonal neurons ceased when the muscle was relaxed pharmacologically by nicardipine (3 microM) or isoprenaline (1 microM), although the applied stretch was maintained. At the same time, evoked spike discharge became rapidly accommodating. 6. We conclude that many Dogiel type II neurons, and possibly some orally projecting uniaxonal neurons, are intrinsic, stretch-sensitive, primary afferent neurons that respond to muscle tension with sustained action potential discharge.