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Neuroscience. 1990;36(3):623-9.

Submicromolar concentrations of zinc irreversibly reduce a calcium-dependent potassium current in rat hippocampal neurons in vitro.

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INSERUM, U. 029, Paris, France.


The action of the endogenous divalent cation zinc on Ca2+ and Ca2(+)-dependent currents was studied in rat hippocampal CA1 and CA3 neurons in vitro, by means of a single electrode voltage clamp technique. Bath application of zinc (0.5-1 microM) produced a small membrane depolarization associated with an increase in synaptic noise and cell excitability and a depression of the afterhyperpolarization following a train of action potentials. The effects on the afterhyperpolarization, could not be reversed on washout. In voltage-clamped neurons, zinc induced a steady inward current and reduced, at resting membrane potential, the peak amplitude of the outward current underlying the afterhyperpolarization, IAHP. In caesium loaded neurons (in the presence of tetrodotoxin and tetraethylammonium), zinc reduced the slow inactivating Ca2+ current activated from a holding potential of -40 mV. Similar results were observed with nickel and cobalt at comparable concentrations, with Zn2+ greater than Ni2+ greater than Co2+, in their order of potency. In contrast to nickel and cobalt the effects of zinc did not reverse on washout. These results suggest that low concentrations of zinc enhance cell excitability by reducing IAHP. In addition, zinc reduces the slow inactivating voltage-dependent Ca2+ current. The irreversible effect of this metal ion is compatible with a toxic, intracellular site of action.

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