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J Neurophysiol. 2005 Jul;94(1):519-30. Epub 2005 Feb 23.

Effect of electrical coupling on ionic current and synaptic potential measurements.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, Newark, New Jersey, USA.


Recent studies have found electrical coupling to be more ubiquitous than previously thought, and coupling through gap junctions is known to play a crucial role in neuronal function and network output. In particular, current spread through gap junctions may affect the activation of voltage-dependent conductances as well as chemical synaptic release. Using voltage-clamp recordings of two strongly electrically coupled neurons of the lobster stomatogastric ganglion and conductance-based models of these neurons, we identified effects of electrical coupling on the measurement of leak and voltage-gated outward currents, as well as synaptic potentials. Experimental measurements showed that both leak and voltage-gated outward currents are recruited by gap junctions from neurons coupled to the clamped cell. Nevertheless, in spite of the strong coupling between these neurons, the errors made in estimating voltage-gated conductance parameters were relatively minor (<10%). Thus in many cases isolation of coupled neurons may not be required if a small degree of measurement error of the voltage-gated currents or the synaptic potentials is acceptable. Modeling results show, however, that such errors may be as high as 20% if the gap-junction position is near the recording site or as high as 90% when measuring smaller voltage-gated ionic currents. Paradoxically, improved space clamp increases the errors arising from electrical coupling because voltage control across gap junctions is poor for even the highest realistic coupling conductances. Furthermore, the common procedure of leak subtraction can add an extra error to the conductance measurement, the sign of which depends on the maximal conductance.

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