This paper reviews the combined genetical, electrophysiological and biochemical analysis of excitation that has been carried out in Paramecium. Paramecium cells display graded Ca++ action potentials in response to a variety of stimuli. These action potentials regulate the orientation of the ciliary beat hence the cell's swimming behaviour. A large array of mutants displaying altered behaviour have been isolated and mapped to over 20 loci. Detailed electrophysiological analyses have been carried out on several classes of mutants revealing defects in specific ion channels in some cases. Mutants have proven very useful to analyze channel properties, to unravel interactions between channels and to discover the function of these channels in a variety of cellular processes. Some important channels are located in the ciliary membranes and cilia as well as ciliary membranes can now be purified in high purity and reasonable yield. These fractions have been used recently in a variety of biochemical approaches to gain insight into molecular components of the excitation machinery. Specific alterations in some minor membrane proteins have been found in two mutants as well as a specific defect in sphingolipids in a third mutant. Those alterations had to be distinguished from large scale variations in membrane proteins and lipids that occur in this organism in response to modifications in growth conditions. Several other recent biochemical developments are reviewed and the advantages as well as the difficulties of the genetic approach to the molecular study of biological processes are discussed.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||15|
|Journal||Journal de Physiologie|
|State||Published - 1981|
ASJC Scopus subject areas