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J Neurophysiol. 1996 Oct;76(4):2383-92.

GABAA-receptor-mediated conductance and action potential waveform in cutaneous and muscle afferent neurons of the adult rat: differential expression and response to nerve injury.

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Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA.


1. Whole cell patch-clamp recordings were obtained from identified cutaneous and muscle afferent neurons (33-60 microns diam) in dissociated L4 and L5 dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) from normal rats and from rats 2-3 wk after sciatic nerve ligation or crush injury. gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA)-induced conductance was compared in normal and injured neurons from both functional classes of sensory neurons. 2. Control cutaneous afferent neurons had a peak GABA-mediated conductance of 287 +/- 27 (SE) nS compared with 457 +/- 42 nS for control muscle afferent neurons. 3. An inflection on the downslope of the action potential was observed in 47% of cutaneous afferent neurons compared with 20% of muscle afferent neurons. 4. After ligation and transection of the sciatic nerve there was no change in the GABA-mediated conductance of muscle afferent neurons or in the action potential waveform (23% inflected). However, the cutaneous afferent neurons displayed a greater than two-fold increase in their GABA-mediated conductance and displayed a prominent reduction in the number of neurons with inflected action potentials (13% inflected). Input resistance was similar in cutaneous and muscle afferent neurons and decreased after ligation in cutaneous but not muscle afferents. Resting potential averaged from -50 to -56 mV in normal and ligated groups for both cutaneous and muscle afferent neurons. 5. After crush injury in cutaneous afferent neurons where the transected axons were allowed to regenerate into the distal nerve stump, GABAA-receptor-mediated conductance was elevated compared with controls. However, action potential waveform was not altered by crush injury, suggesting a differential regulation of these two properties in cutaneous afferent neurons. 6. These data indicate that injury-induced plasticity of GABAA-receptor-mediated conductance and action potential waveform occurs in cutaneous but not muscle afferent DRG neurons. It appears that peripherally derived influences are critical in maintaining the electrophysiological phenotype of cutaneous afferent neurons but not muscle afferent neurons.

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