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J Neurophysiol. 2013 May;109(9):2250-9. doi: 10.1152/jn.01085.2012. Epub 2013 Feb 6.

A role for TREK1 in generating the slow afterhyperpolarization in developing starburst amacrine cells.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.


Slow afterhyperpolarizations (sAHPs) play an important role in establishing the firing pattern of neurons that in turn influence network activity. sAHPs are mediated by calcium-activated potassium channels. However, the molecular identity of these channels and the mechanism linking calcium entry to their activation are still unknown. Here we present several lines of evidence suggesting that the sAHPs in developing starburst amacrine cells (SACs) are mediated by two-pore potassium channels. First, we use whole cell and perforated patch voltage clamp recordings to characterize the sAHP conductance under different pharmacological conditions. We find that this conductance was calcium dependent, reversed at EK, blocked by barium, insensitive to apamin and TEA, and activated by arachidonic acid. In addition, pharmacological inhibition of calcium-activated phosphodiesterase reduced the sAHP. Second, we performed gene profiling on isolated SACs and found that they showed strong preferential expression of the two-pore channel gene kcnk2 that encodes TREK1. Third, we demonstrated that TREK1 knockout animals exhibited an altered frequency of retinal waves, a frequency that is set by the sAHPs in SACs. With these results, we propose a model in which depolarization-induced decreases in cAMP lead to disinhibition of the two-pore potassium channels and in which the kinetics of this biochemical pathway dictate the slow activation and deactivation of the sAHP conductance. Our model offers a novel pathway for the activation of a conductance that is physiologically important.


calcium imaging; gene profiling; multielectrode array recording; perforated patch; retina; retinal waves

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