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J Physiol. 1993 May;464:229-43.

Membrane properties of rat suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons receiving optic nerve input.

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  • 1Mental Retardation Research Center, UCLA School of Medicine 90024.


1. The electrophysiological properties of suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) neurons (n = 33) receiving optic nerve input were studied with intracellular recordings in rat hypothalamic slices maintained in vitro. Our major goal was to provide baseline data concerning the intrinsic membrane properties of these neurons and to test the hypothesis that the neurons are homogeneous electrophysiologically. 2. Action potentials were short in duration and followed by a pronounced hyperpolarizing after-potential. Spike amplitude (58.2 +/- 1.1 mV, mean +/- S.E.M.; measured from threshold), spike duration (0.83 +/- 0.03 ms; measured at half amplitude) and hyperpolarizing after-potential amplitude (23.9 +/- 1.0 mV; measured from threshold) appeared unimodally distributed and did not co-vary. 3. Intracellular injection of depolarizing current pulses evoked spike trains, and spike inactivation, spike broadening and frequency accommodation were always present. An after-hyperpolarization followed the spike train in all but one neuron. 4. Membrane time constant ranged from 7.5 to 21.1 ms (11.4 +/- 0.7 ms, n = 27), and its distribution appeared to be unimodal with the peak at approximately 10 ms. Input resistance ranged from 105 to 626 M omega (301 +/- 23 M omega, n = 33); the distribution also appeared unimodal with its peak at approximately 250 M omega. 5. A subpopulation (16 of 33, 48%) of the neurons exhibited slight (6-29%) time-dependent inward rectification in their voltage responses to hyperpolarizing current injection. Of the neurons lacking the time-dependent rectification, some (n = 5) exhibited time-independent inward rectification of 6-20% and others showed no (or < 3%) such rectification. The degree of inward rectification was correlated with neuronal excitability (r = 0.60, P < 0.002; assessed by measuring the steepness of the primary slope of the frequency-current plot) and with the spontaneous firing rate (r = 0.49, P < 0.007). Furthermore, the neurons with > 6% inward rectification (neurons with time-dependent and -independent rectification were combined) were more excitable (362 +/- 43 Hz/nA (n = 15) vs. 221 +/- 37 Hz/nA (n = 9), P < 0.05) and had a higher spontaneous firing rate (11.1 +/- 1.9 Hz (n = 19) vs. 3.9 +/- 1.5 Hz (n = 11), P < 0.02) than the neurons with no or negligible (i.e. < 3%) inward rectification. The two groups, however, were not significantly different in membrane time constant and input resistance. 6. When adequately hyperpolarized, twelve of seventeen (71%) neurons generated small low-threshold spike (LTS) potentials in response to depolarizing current pulses.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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