Tichy, H., Kallina, W.
The most favored model of humidity transduction views the cuticular wall of insect hygroreceptive sensilla as a hygromechanical transducer. Hygroscopic swelling or shrinking alters the geometry of the wall, deforming the dendritic membranes of the moist and dry cells. The small size the sensilla and their position surrounded by elevated structures creates technical difficulties to mechanically stimulate them by direct contact. The present study investigated hygroreceptors on the antennae of the cockroach and the stick insect. Accurately controlled, homogeneous mechanical input was delivered by modulating air pressure. Both the moist and dry cells responded not only to changes in air pressure but also in the opposite direction, as observed during changes in air humidity. The moist cell's excitatory response to increasing humidity and increasing air pressure implies that swelling of the hygroscopic cuticle compresses the dendrites, and the dry cell's excitatory response to decreasing humidity and decreasing air pressure implies that shrinking of the hygroscopic cuticle expands the dendrites. The moist and dry cells of the stick insect are more sensitive to pressure changes than those of the cockroach, but the responses to air pressure are generally weaker than to humidity. Therefore the hygroreceptive sensilla differ in their physical properties and constitutions. Furthermore, the mechanical parameters associated with homogeneous changes in air pressure on the sensillum surface can only partially account for the responses of the moist and dry cells of both species to humidity stimulation.