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J Physiol. 1999 Jul 1;518(Pt 1):203-14.

Specific distribution of sodium channels in axons of rat embryo spinal motoneurones.

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Laboratoire de Neurobiologie, CNRS UPR 9024, 31 Chemin Joseph Aiguier, 13402 Marseille Cedex 20, France.


1. The distribution of Na+ channels and development of excitability were investigated in vitro in purified spinal motoneurones obtained from rat embryos at E14, using electrophysiological, immunocytochemical and autoradiographical methods. 2. One hour after plating the motoneurones (DIV0), only somas were present. They expressed a robust delayed rectifier K+ current (IDR) and a fast-inactivating A-type K+ current (IA). The rapid neuritic outgrowth was paralleled by the emergence of a fast-activating TTX-sensitive sodium current (INa), and by an increase in both K+ currents. 3. The change in the three currents was measured daily, up to DIV8. The large increase in INa observed after DIV2 was accompanied by the onset of excitability. Spontaneous activity was observed as from DIV6. 4. The occurrence of axonal differentiation was confirmed by the fact that (i) only one neurite per motoneurone generated antidromic action potentials; and (ii) 125I-alpha-scorpion toxin binding, a specific marker of Na+ channels, labelled only one neurite and the greatest density was observed in the initial segment. Na+ channels therefore selectively targeted the axon and were absent from the dendrites and somas. 5. The specific distribution of Na+ channels was detectable as soon as the neurites began to grow. When the neuritic outgrowth was blocked by nocodazole, no INa developed. 6. It was concluded that, in spinal embryonic motoneurone in cell culture, Na+ channels, the expression of which starts with neuritic differentiation, are selectively addressed to the axonal process, whereas K+ channels are present in the soma prior to the neuritic outgrowth.

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