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J Physiol. 1996 Jul 15;494 ( Pt 2):389-98.

Activity dependence and functional role of the apamin-sensitive K+ current in rat supraoptic neurones in vitro.

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Centre for Research in Neuroscience, Montreal General Hospital, Quebec, Canada.


1. Intracellular recordings were obtained from seventy-two magnocellular neurosecretory cells (MNCs) in superfused explants of rat hypothalamus. The current underlying the after-hyperpolarization (IAHP) following spike-evoked trains of action potentials was characterized using the hybrid-clamp technique. The activity-dependent requirements for the genesis of the AHP were determined. The functional role of the conductance was investigated using saturating concentrations (50-300 nM) of apamin, a selective blocker of the AHP in MNCs. 2. IAHP was reversibly abolished by the removal of extracellular Ca2+. The amplitude of IAHP varied linearly as a function of voltage and reversed at -100 +/- 3 mV in 3 mM external K+. Changes in the concentration of extracellular K+ resulted in shifts of the reversal potential consistent with Nernst equation predictions for a K+-selective conductance. 3. Action potentials triggered by brief depolarizing pulses elicited an AHP during trains evoked at frequencies > 1 Hz. Onset of the AHP progressed exponentially, reaching a maximum after the first fifteen to twenty impulses. The steady-state amplitude of the AHP increased logarithmically between 1 and 20 Hz. 4. Switching to voltage clamp during periods of continuous cell activity (firing rate > 4 Hz) confirmed the presence of an apamin-sensitive Ca2(+)-dependent K+ current. 5. Application of apamin produced a threefold increase in the mean firing rate of spontaneously active cells, but was without effect when applied to silent cells (firing rate < 0.5 Hz). 6. Apamin did not affect the ability of MNCs to fire in a phasic manner but caused a dramatic increase in the mean intraburst firing rate. Moreover, inhibition of IAHP by apamin strongly attenuated spike accommodation normally seen at the onset of phasic bursts. 7. While apamin did not enhance the amplitude of depolarizing after-potentials following single spikes, post-train plateau potentials and associated after-discharges were enhanced. 8. The possible consequences of IAHP modulation are discussed in the context of the regulation of firing rate and pattern in MNCs.

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