Journal of Neurocytology

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 115–130 | Cite as

Structure and localization of synaptic complexes in the cardiac ganglion of a portunid crab

  • Maurizio Mirolli
  • Ian M. Cooke
  • Susan R. Talbott
  • Mark W. Miller


The cardiac ganglion ofPortunus sanguinolentus exhibits spontaneous rhythmic activity when isolated. The ganglion contains five large and four small intrinsic neurons and is innervated by three pairs of fibres originating in the thoracic ganglia.

We have identified the processes of the large neurons in electron micrographs by injecting these cells with two electron-dense markers, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) and Procion Rubine (PR). In addition we have studied the processes of the four smaller neurons by light microscopy serial reconstructions and by electron microscopy of selected regions. Both markers were found only in neuronal processes and not in glial cells nor in the extracellular space, except close to the soma of the injected cell.

We found contacts between the small secondary (collateral) processes of the large cells but not between their somata or their primary processes (axons and dendrites). Two specialized structures present at the contacts between the collateral processes were small membrane close appositions, possibly the site of electrotonic junctions, and chemical synapses. Contacts between processes marked by HRP and those marked by PR were common, as were contacts between processes marked by either HRP or PR and those of the other intrinsic neurons. Adjacent processes stained by PR could contain PR deposits of different densities, but it is unclear whether this finding was due to intercellular diffusion of the dye or to its diffusing at different rates into branches of the same process. Identified processes of all the intrinsic neurons contained the same type of vesicles, which were different from those found in processes of the extrinsic fibres. Chemical synapses were present at contacts between processes of the extrinsic and intrinsic neurons, as well as at contacts between processes of the intrinsic neurons.

The axons of three small cells made a series of contacts at which extensive arrays of membrane close appositions, but not chemical synapses, were found. These three axons also formed contacts, either directly or through their collateral branches, with processes of the large cells, at which both membrane close appositions and chemical synapses were present. The axon of the fourth small cell could not be followed in our series.


Large Cell Lucifer Yellow Chemical Synapse Clear Vesicle Cardiac Ganglion 
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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall Ltd 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maurizio Mirolli
    • 1
  • Ian M. Cooke
    • 2
  • Susan R. Talbott
    • 1
  • Mark W. Miller
    • 2
  1. 1.Medical Sciences ProgramMyers Hall, Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.Békésy Laboratory of NeurobiologyUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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