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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Nov;92(5):3106-20. Epub 2004 Jul 7.

Membrane and firing properties of glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons in the rat medial vestibular nucleus.

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Department of Neurophysiology, Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine, 3-39-22 Showa-machi, Maebashi, Gunma 371-8511, Japan.


In previous studies, neurons in the medial vestibular nucleus (MVN) were classified mainly into 2 types according to their intrinsic membrane properties in in vitro slice preparations. However, it has not been determined whether the classified neurons are excitatory or inhibitory ones. In the present study, to clarify the relationship between the chemical and electrophysiological properties of MVN neurons, we explored mRNAs of cellular markers for GABAergic (glutamic acid decarboxylase 65, 67, and neuronal GABA transporter), glutamatergic (vesicular glutamate transporter 1 and 2), glycinergic (glycine transporter 2), and cholinergic neurons (choline acetyltransferase and vesicular acetylcholine transporter) expressed in electrophysiologically characterized MVN neurons in rat brain stem slice preparations. For this purpose, we combined whole cell patch-clamp recording analysis with single-cell reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis. We examined the membrane properties such as afterhyperpolarization (AHP), firing pattern, and response to hyperpolarizing current pulse to classify MVN neurons. From the single-cell RT-PCR analysis, we found that GABAergic neurons consisted of heterogeneous populations with different membrane properties. Comparison of the membrane properties of GABAergic neurons with those of other neurons revealed that AHPs without slow components and a firing pattern with delayed spike generation (late spiking) were preferential properties of GABAergic neurons. On the other hand, most glutamatergic neurons formed a homogeneous subclass of neurons exhibiting AHPs with slow components, repetitive firings with constant interspike intervals (continuous spiking), and time-dependent inward rectification in response to hyperpolarizing current pulses. We also found a small number of cholinergic neurons with various membrane properties. These findings clarify the electrophysiological properties of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in the MVN, and the information about the preferential membrane properties may be useful for identifying GABAergic and glutamatergic MVN neurons electrophysiologically.

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