Electrical properties of cnidocytes isolated from the hydroid Cladonema and the scyphomedusa Chrysaora were examined using current- and voltage-clamp recording techniques.
The stenoteles of Cladonema produced action potentials when depolarized above 0 m V. The inward current that produced the action potential was a Na+ current. These cells also possessed an A-current and a K-current.
Atrichous isorhizas from Chrysaora did not spike and did not have any inward currents. All cells examined had K-currents, some had A-currents also.
Very few cnidocytes discharged during the course of the recordings, irrespective of the degree to which they were depolarized or hyperpolarized, or the presence or selective blockade of any ionic currents. When discharge did occur it could never be correlated with any obvious electrophysiological event.
Recordings from cnidocytes in situ in tentacles of the siphonophore Physalia indicate that these cells do not spike. Their current/voltage relationships were linear. They too did not discharge in response to changes in membrane potential, suggesting that the failure of isolated cnidocytes to discharge cannot be attributed to the isolation procedure.