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J Neurophysiol. 2016 Aug 1;116(2):438-47. doi: 10.1152/jn.00223.2016. Epub 2016 May 4.

HCN hyperpolarization-activated cation channels strengthen virtual nicotinic EPSPs and thereby elevate synaptic amplification in rat sympathetic neurons.

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Department of Neurobiology and Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Department of Neurobiology and Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


The influence of hyperpolarization-activated cation current (h-current; Ih) upon synaptic integration in paravertebral sympathetic neurons was studied together with expression of hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) subunit isoforms. All four HCN subunits were detected in homogenates of the rat superior cervical ganglion (SCG) using the PCR to amplify reverse-transcribed messenger RNAs (RT-PCR) and using quantitative PCR. Voltage clamp recordings from dissociated SCG neurons at 35°C detected Ih in all cells, with a maximum hyperpolarization-activated cation conductance of 1.2 ± 0.1 nS, half-maximal activation at -87.6 mV, and reversal potential of -31.6 mV. Interaction between Ih and synaptic potentials was tested with virtual fast nicotinic excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) created with dynamic clamp. The blocking of Ih with 15 μM ZD7288 hyperpolarized cells by 4.7 mV and increased the virtual synaptic conductance required to stimulate an action potential from 7.0 ± 0.9 nS to 12.1 ± 0.9 nS. In response to stimulation with 40 s long trains of virtual EPSPs, ZD7288 reduced postsynaptic firing from 2.2 to 1.7 Hz and the associated synaptic amplification from 2.2 ± 0.1 to 1.7 ± 0.2. Cyclic nucleotide binding to HCN channels was simulated by blocking native Ih with ZD7288, followed by reconstitution with virtual Ih using a dynamic clamp model of the voltage clamp data. Over a 30-mV range, shifting the half-activation voltage for Ih in 10 mV depolarizing increments always increased synaptic gain. These results indicate that Ih, in sympathetic neurons, can strengthen nicotinic EPSPs and increase synaptic amplification, while also working as a substrate for cyclic nucleotide-dependent modulation.


baroreflex gain; blood pressure; dynamic clamp; sympathetic motor system; synaptic integration

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