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Prog Neurobiol. 2001 Aug;64(5):431-525.

Non-synaptic ion channels in insects--basic properties of currents and their modulation in neurons and skeletal muscles.

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Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Arbeitsgruppe Neurohormonale Wirkungsmechanismen, Erbertstr. 1, 07743, Jena, Germany.


Insects are favoured objects for studying information processing in restricted neuronal networks, e.g. motor pattern generation or sensory perception. The analysis of the underlying processes requires knowledge of the electrical properties of the cells involved. These properties are determined by the expression pattern of ionic channels and by the regulation of their function, e.g. by neuromodulators. We here review the presently available knowledge on insect non-synaptic ion channels and ionic currents in neurons and skeletal muscles. The first part of this article covers genetic and structural informations, the localization of channels, their electrophysiological and pharmacological properties, and known effects of second messengers and modulators such as neuropeptides or biogenic amines. In a second part we describe in detail modulation of ionic currents in three particularly well investigated preparations, i.e. Drosophila photoreceptor, cockroach DUM (dorsal unpaired median) neuron and locust jumping muscle. Ion channel structures are almost exclusively known for the fruitfly Drosophila, and most of the information on their function has also been obtained in this animal, mainly based on mutational analysis and investigation of heterologously expressed channels. Now the entire genome of Drosophila has been sequenced, it seems almost completely known which types of channel genes--and how many of them--exist in this animal. There is much knowledge of the various types of channels formed by 6-transmembrane--spanning segments (6TM channels) including those where four 6TM domains are joined within one large protein (e.g. classical Na+ channel). In comparison, two TM channels and 4TM (or tandem) channels so far have hardly been explored. There are, however, various well characterized ionic conductances, e.g. for Ca2+, Cl- or K+, in other insect preparations for which the channels are not yet known. In some of the larger insects, i.e. bee, cockroach, locust and moth, rather detailed information has been established on the role of ionic currents in certain physiological or behavioural contexts. On the whole, however, knowledge of non-synaptic ion channels in such insects is still fragmentary. Modulation of ion currents usually involves activation of more or less elaborate signal transduction cascades. The three detailed examples for modulation presented in the second part indicate, amongst other things, that one type of modulator usually leads to concerted changes of several ion currents and that the effects of different modulators in one type of cell may overlap. Modulators participate in the adaptive changes of the various cells responsible for different physiological or behavioural states. Further study of their effects on the single cell level should help to understand how small sets of cells cooperate in order to produce the appropriate output.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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