Here are two images from Google. Afferent neurons receive input and send it to the central nervous system. Input is received by the neuron's dendritic end and send away centrally via axon terminals that are sheathed with Schwann cells. Axon terminals synapse to motor neurons (muscles and glands).

How is it possible that Merkel cells, which supposed to be a sensory cell, synapse with an axon, and not with a dendritic end?

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  • $\begingroup$ I edited the question to improve clarity. Feel free to roll back when it doesn't reflect your original question. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:21

1 Answer 1


There is nothing out of the ordinary with the Merkel cell, as it functions in the same way as photoreceptors and hair cells (see Further Reading #1).

Merkel cell
Fig. 1. Merkel cell. Source: Gallery for Share.

The Merkel cell depicted in Fig. 1 is a specialized receptor neuron. It has no axon. It relies on a secondary sensory neuron (a somatosensory afferent) onto which it synapses to direct the touch signal to the brain.

Note that neural information flow goes from dendrite to axon. An axon terminates into a synapse. The Merkel cell, which does not have an axon, features a synapse directly onto the dendrite of the secondary neuron (See Further Reading #2).

Further Readings
1. Can axons act as receptors?
2. What are the functions and differences between axons and dendrites?

  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand your last paragraph: there is no dendrite depicted in the figure, only the body (and some dendrite-like processes) of a Merkel cell, the meniscus tactus (supposed to be a dendrite?), and the axon of the secondary sensory neuron. But the meniscus tactus looks more like a part of the postsynaptic axon - why then "features a synapse directly onto the dendrite"? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 22:54

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