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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2004 Sep;287(3):C682-90. Epub 2004 Apr 28.

Modulatory effects of acid-sensing ion channels on action potential generation in hippocampal neurons.

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  • 1Département de Pharmacologie et de Toxicologie, Université de Lausanne, Rue du Bugnon 27, CH-1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.


Extracellular acidification has been shown to generate action potentials (APs) in several types of neurons. In this study, we investigated the role of acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) in acid-induced AP generation in brain neurons. ASICs are neuronal Na(+) channels that belong to the epithelial Na(+) channel/degenerin family and are transiently activated by a rapid drop in extracellular pH. We compared the pharmacological and biophysical properties of acid-induced AP generation with those of ASIC currents in cultured hippocampal neurons. Our results show that acid-induced AP generation in these neurons is essentially due to ASIC activation. We demonstrate for the first time that the probability of inducing APs correlates with current entry through ASICs. We also show that ASIC activation in combination with other excitatory stimuli can either facilitate AP generation or inhibit AP bursts, depending on the conditions. ASIC-mediated generation and modulation of APs can be induced by extracellular pH changes from 7.4 to slightly <7. Such local extracellular pH values may be reached by pH fluctuations due to normal neuronal activity. Furthermore, in the plasma membrane, ASICs are localized in close proximity to voltage-gated Na(+) and K(+) channels, providing the conditions necessary for the transduction of local pH changes into electrical signals.

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