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Neuroscience. 2005;130(2):389-96.

Molecular diversity of voltage-gated sodium channel alpha subunits expressed in neuronal and non-neuronal excitable cells.

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  • 1I.N.S.E.R.M. U583, Institut des Neurosciences de Montpellier-Hôpital St Eloi, 80, rue Augustin Fliche, 34295 Montpellier cedex 5, France.


In order to investigate the role of molecular diversity of voltage-activated sodium channel alpha-subunits in excitability of neuronal and non-neuronal cells, we carried out patch-clamp recordings and single-cell RT-PCR on two different types of mammalian excitable cells i.e. hippocampal neurons and non-neuronal utricular epithelial hair cells. In each cell type, multiple different combinations of sodium channel alpha-subunits exist from cell to cell despite similar sodium current properties. The mRNA isoforms, Nav1.2 and Nav1.6, are the most frequently detected by single cell analysis in the two cell types while Nav1.3 and Nav1.7 are also moderately expressed in embryonic hippocampal neurons and in neonatal utricular hair cells respectively. By investigating the particular alternate splice isoforms of Nav1.6 occurring at the exon 18 of the mouse orthologue SCN8A, we revealed that this subunit co-exist in the two cell types under different alternative spliced isoforms. The expression of non-functional isoforms of Nav1.6 in utricular epithelial hair cells excludes the involvement of this subunit in supporting their excitability. Thus, from a functional point of view, the present results suggest that, at the single cell level, both neuronal and non-neuronal excitable cells expressed different and complex patterns of sodium channel gene transcripts but this diversity alone cannot explain the sodium current properties of these cell types.

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