Letter from Jane H. Hu, National Naval Medical Center, Naval Medical Research Institute to Marshall W. Nirenberg
Hu discusses the work done by Nirenberg and his laboratory in the area of electrophysiology. She offers some of her own experimental
findings, suggests some implications of Nirenberg's work, and offers to provide any experiments or techniques that would
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1972-02-22 (February 22, 1972)
Hu, Jane H.
Naval Medical Research Institute. National Naval Medical Center
I attended your recent seminar at our Institute. Your experimental data and their implications are most interesting.
If I understand correctly, you found that B-type cells which contain Acetylcholine Esterase and respond to electrical stimulations
with local potentials. A-type cells can respond to electrical stimulation with action potentials. Your findings remind me
of the basic differences between the so-called synaptic membrane which has acetylcholine receptors or chemoreceptors and the
nonsynaptic membrane which has no chemosensitivity. I wonder whether the differentiation between the A-type cells and B-type
cells also depends upon the presence of chemoreceptors. The synaptic membrane has the following properties: (1) it is chemically
excitable, (2) it only generates local and graded potential responses, (3) it contains chemoreceptors. The nonsynaptic membrane
has the following characteristics: (1) it is electrically excitable, (2) it is not chemically excitable, (3) it can generate
action potentials which are regenerative and propagated events.
It seems to me that the B-type cell membrane may be chemically excitable, which indicates the presence of chemoreceptors.
To test this, one may use intracellular and extracellular iontophoresis to eject acetylcholine or other transmitters to the
surface of the cells and record cell membrane potential changes. If you are interested in these experiments and techniques,
I would be glad to be helpful. I am sure the electrophysiologists in your lab can do these experiments easily. Your lecture
was very stimulating and I enjoyed listening to you.