Machemer-Röhnisch S, Machemer H, Bräucker R (1996) Electric-field effects on gravikinesis in Paramecium.


Equilibrated Paramecium caudatum cells exposed to a constant DC gradient reorient with their depolarized anterior ends toward the cathode (galvanotaxis). Voltage gradients were applied to cells swimming either horizontally or vertically. Their velocity and orientation were recorded and compared to unstimulated cells. The DC field increased the horizontal velocity (= reference) up to 175% (galvanokinesis). Swimming velocities saturated after 1 min and were unchanged during the following 4 min. The upward and downward swimming velocities of stimulated cells were below those of horizontal swimmers. The difference in vertical rates (determining gravikinesis) was independent of variations in absolute velocity. Normalization of vertical velocities to horizontal velocities (=100%) separated DC-field dependent changes from gravity-induced changes in velocities. A weak voltage gradient (0.3 V/cm) was most effective in raising downward gravikinesis up to threefold (-202 µm/s) above the unstimulated reference (-66 µm/s) and to change sign of gravikinesis in upward swimmers (-43 µm/s -> +33 µm/s). We conclude that DC-field stimulation is equivalent to a depolarizing bias on gravikinetic responses of Paramecium. The stimulation does not directly interfere with mechanoreception, but modulates somatic Ca2+ entry to induce contraction of the cell soma. This presumably affects the gating of gravisensory transduction channels.