Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

September 1958


The slow tonic responses of the anterior byssus retractor of Mytilus edulis to rapid cooling were investigated by simultaneously recording tension and resting potential changes after soaking the muscle in banthine, a powerful neuromuscular blocking agent. The quantitative relations between the amount of cooling and the amount of associated depolarization necessary for contraction at various concentrations of potentiating potassium can be expressed in a family of curves. The plateaus of the curves for sea water and for potassium-free sea water were beneath the depolarization value necessary for contraction, so that it is clear that no amount of cooling with sea water alone or with potassium-free sea water would ever be effective. When the muscle is treated with subthreshold amounts of potassium and rapidly cooled in various concentrations of sodium ion and calcium ion, respectively, the sodium and calcium do not affect the amount of depolarization. Acetylcholine, in subthreshold amounts, has a potentiating effect, but, unlike potassium and cooling, acts through the nervous apparatus. Mytilus muscle will respond to cooling with tonic contraction whenever a critical threshold amount of depolarization is achieved. Cooling alone cannot trigger the contraction since it cannot bring about sufficient depolarization. Cooling can result in contraction, however, if used in conjunction with some other subthreshold depolarizing agent. Cooling affects the contractile mechanism by first causing membrane breakdown and depolarization.


This work was originally published in The Journal of General Physiology



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