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J Neurophysiol. 1990 Feb;63(2):333-46.

Voltage behavior along the irregular dendritic structure of morphologically and physiologically characterized vagal motoneurons in the guinea pig.

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Department of Neurobiology, Institute of Life Sciences, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel.


1. Intracellular recordings from neurons in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus (vagal motoneurons, VMs) obtained in the guinea pig brain stem slice preparation were used for both horseradish peroxidase (HRP) labeling of the neurons and for measurements of their input resistance (RN) and time constant (tau 0). Based on the physiological data and on the morphological reconstruction of the labeled cells, detailed steady-state and compartmental models of VM were built and utilized to estimate the range of membrane resistivity, membrane capacitance, and cytoplasm resistivity values (Rm, Cm, and Ri, respectively) and to explore the integrative properties of these cells. 2. VMs are relatively small cells with a simple dendritic structure. Each cell has an average of 5.3 smooth (nonspiny), short (251 microns) dendrites with a low order (2) of branching. The average soma-dendritic surface area of VMs is 9,876 microns 2. 3. Electrically, VMs show remarkably linear membrane properties in the hyperpolarizing direction; they have an average RN of 67 +/- 23 (SD) M omega and a tau 0 of 9.4 +/- 4.1 ms. Several unfavorable experimental conditions precluded the possibility of faithfully recovering ("peeling") the first equalizing time constant (tau 1) and, thereby, of estimating the electrotonic length (Lpeel) of VMs. 4. Reconciling VM morphology with the measured RN and tau 0 through the models, assuming an Ri of 70 and a spatially uniform Rm, yielded an Rm estimate of 5,250 omega.cm2 and a Cm of 1.8 microF/cm2. Peeling theoretical transients produced by these models result in an Lpeel of 1.35. Because of marked differences in the length of dendrites within a single cell, this value is larger than the maximal cable length of the dendrites and is twice as long as their average cable length. 5. The morphological and physiological data could be matched indistinguishably well if a possible soma shunt (i.e., Rm, soma less than Rm, dend) was included in the model. Although there is no unique solution for the exact model Rm, a general conclusion regarding the integrative capabilities of VM could be drawn. As long as the model is consistent with the experimental data, the average input resistance at the dendritic terminals (RT) and the steady-state central (AFT----S) and peripheral (AFS----T) attenuation factors are essentially the same in the different models. With Ri = 70, we calculated RT, AFS----T, and AFT----S to be, on the average, 580 M omega, 1.1, and 13, respectively.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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