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Physiol Rev. 2005 Jul;85(3):883-941.

Ion channel development, spontaneous activity, and activity-dependent development in nerve and muscle cells.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA. profbill@u.washington.edu


At specific stages of development, nerve and muscle cells generate spontaneous electrical activity that is required for normal maturation of intrinsic excitability and synaptic connectivity. The patterns of this spontaneous activity are not simply immature versions of the mature activity, but rather are highly specialized to initiate and control many aspects of neuronal development. The configuration of voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels that are expressed early in development regulate the timing and waveform of this activity. They also regulate Ca2+ influx during spontaneous activity, which is the first step in triggering activity-dependent developmental programs. For these reasons, the properties of voltage- and ligand-gated ion channels expressed by developing neurons and muscle cells often differ markedly from those of adult cells. When viewed from this perspective, the reasons for complex patterns of ion channel emergence and regression during development become much clearer.

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