Multiple mechanisms generate the resting activity of filiform sensilla in the firebug (Pyrrhocoris apterus L.; Heteroptera)
The warm cells of the spider tarsal organ respond very sensitively to low-amplitude changes in temperature and discharge continuously as the rate of change in temperature reaches zero. To test whether the continuous tonic discharge remains without sensory input, we blocked the warm cell's receptive region by Epoxy glue. The activity continued in this situation, but its dependence on temperature changes was strongly reduced. We interpret this to mean that the warm cells exhibit specific intrinsic properties that underlie the generation of the tonic discharge. Experiments with electrical stimulation confirmed the observation that the warm cells persist in activity without an external drive. In warm cells with blocked receptive region, the response curves describing the relationship between the tonic discharge and the level of depolarization is the same for different temperatures. In warm cells with intact receptive region, the curves are shifted upward with rising temperature, as if the injected current is simply added to the receptor current. This indicates a modulating effect of the receptor current on the tonic discharge. Stimulation causes a change in the tonic discharge rate and thereby enables individual warm cells to signal the direction in addition to the magnitude of temperature changes.