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J Neurosci. 2018 Feb 14;38(7):1788-1801. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0538-17.2018. Epub 2018 Jan 15.

Nonlinear Relationship Between Spike-Dependent Calcium Influx and TRPC Channel Activation Enables Robust Persistent Spiking in Neurons of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex.

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Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 0A4 Canada.
Department of Physiology and the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1A8 Canada, and.
Pittsburgh Center for Pain Research, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 15213.
Neurosciences and Mental Health, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 0A4 Canada,


Continuation of spiking after a stimulus ends (i.e. persistent spiking) is thought to support working memory. Muscarinic receptor activation enables persistent spiking among synaptically isolated pyramidal neurons in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), but a detailed characterization of that spiking is lacking and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we show that the rate of persistent spiking in ACC neurons is insensitive to the intensity and number of triggers, but can be modulated by injected current, and that persistent spiking can resume after several seconds of hyperpolarization-imposed quiescence. Using electrophysiology and calcium imaging in brain slices from male rats, we determined that canonical transient receptor potential (TRPC) channels are necessary for persistent spiking and that TRPC-activating calcium enters in a spike-dependent manner via voltage-gated calcium channels. Constrained by these biophysical details, we built a computational model that reproduced the observed pattern of persistent spiking. Nonlinear dynamical analysis of that model revealed that TRPC channels become fully activated by the small rise in intracellular calcium caused by evoked spikes. Calcium continues to rise during persistent spiking, but because TRPC channel activation saturates, firing rate stabilizes. By calcium rising higher than required for maximal TRPC channel activation, TRPC channels are able to remain active during periods of hyperpolarization-imposed quiescence (until calcium drops below saturating levels) such that persistent spiking can resume when hyperpolarization is discontinued. Our results thus reveal that the robust intrinsic bistability exhibited by ACC neurons emerges from the nonlinear positive feedback relationship between spike-dependent calcium influx and TRPC channel activation.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Neurons use action potentials, or spikes, to encode information. Some neurons can store information for short periods (seconds to minutes) by continuing to spike after a stimulus ends, thus enabling working memory. This so-called "persistent" spiking occurs in many brain areas and has been linked to activation of canonical transient receptor potential (TRPC) channels. However, TRPC activation alone is insufficient to explain many aspects of persistent spiking such as resumption of spiking after periods of imposed quiescence. Using experiments and simulations, we show that calcium influx caused by spiking is necessary and sufficient to activate TRPC channels and that the ensuing positive feedback interaction between intracellular calcium and TRPC channel activation can account for many hitherto unexplained aspects of persistent spiking.


TRPC channels; anterior cingulate cortex; bistability; calcium; persistent spiking; working memory

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