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J Neurophysiol. 2012 May;107(10):2692-702. doi: 10.1152/jn.00857.2011. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Spatial variation in membrane excitability modulated by 4-AP-sensitive K+ channels in the axons of the crayfish neuromuscular junction.

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  • 1Biology Dept., Boston Univ, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Current-clamp recordings were made from the primary (1°) and secondary (2°) branching points (BPs) of axons at the crayfish neuromuscular junction. Action potential (AP) firing initiated by current injected at the 2° BP showed strong adaptation or high-frequency firing at threshold current, whereas AP firing frequency at the 1° BP exhibited a gradual rise with increasing current amplitude. The voltage threshold for AP (V(TH)) was higher at the 2° BP than the 1° BP. 4-Aminopyridine (4-AP) at 200 μM increased AP amplitude and duration at both BPs but reduced threshold current at the 2° BP more than at the 1° BP. This blocker lowered V(TH) at both BPs, but the difference between the BPs remained. Firing patterns evoked at the 2° BP became similar to those evoked at the 1° BP in 4-AP. Thus 4-AP-sensitive channels may be more concentrated in the distal axon and control AP initiation and firing patterns there. Orthodromic APs between the two BPs were also compared. There was no difference in AP amplitude between the two BPs, but AP half-width recorded at the 2° BP was longer than that at the 1° BP. AP duration at both BPs increased gradually, by ∼17%, during a 100-Hz, 500-ms train (in-train rise). Normalized AP half-widths revealed a smaller fractional in-train rise at the 2° BP. Thus, although distal APs were broader, AP duration there was under more stringent control than that of the proximal axon. 4-AP increased AP amplitude and duration of the entire orthodromic train and reduced the magnitude of the in-train rise in AP half-width at both BPs. However, this blocker did not uncover a clear difference between the two BPs. Thus 4-AP-sensitive channels concentrated in distal axon may be essential in preventing unintended firing and modulating AP waveform without interfering with orthodromic AP propagation.

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