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J Physiol. 1997 Feb 15;499 ( Pt 1):77-86.

Two types of low-voltage-activated Ca2+ channels in neurones of rat laterodorsal thalamic nucleus.

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Department of General Physiology of Nervous System, Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology, National Academy of Sciences, Kiev-24, Ukraine.


1. The pharmacological and kinetic properties of two types of low-voltage-activated (LVA) Ca2+ currents were studied in thalamocortical neurones of the laterodorsal (LD) thalamic nucleus during early postnatal development. The whole-cell patch-clamp technique was used on brain slices from rats of three age groups: 12, 14 and 17 days old (postnatal day (P) 12, P14 and P17). 2. In P12 neurones, the population of LVA Ca2+ channels was homogeneous. LVA Ca2+ current elicited by depolarizing voltage steps from a holding potential more negative than -70 mV was sensitive to nifedipine (Kd = 2.6 microM). This current reached a maximum at about -55 mV and had a fast monoexponential decay with a time constant, tau h,f, of 32.3 +/- 4.0 ms. 3. The population of LVA Ca2+ channels in P14 and P17 neurones was found to be heterogeneous. A subpopulation of nifedipine-insensitive LVA Ca2+ channels was observed. The current-voltage curve of the Ca2+ current had a characteristic hump with two peaks at about -65 and -55 mV. As well as the fast component (designated IT,f), the decay of the LVA current also included a slow component (designated IT,s), with inactivation time constants (tau h,s) of 54.2 +/- 4.5 and 68.6 +/- 3.17 ms for P14 and P17 neurones, respectively. 4. The kinetics of both components could be well approximated by the m2h Hodgkin-Huxley equation. No significant difference in activation kinetics was observed. The activation time constants for the fast (tau m,f) and slow (tau m,s) components were 6.3 +/- 1.0 and 7.3 +/- 1.5 ms, respectively. 5. La3+ at a concentration of 1 microM effectively blocked the IT,f component but Ni2+ (25 microM) completely eliminated the IT,s component. 6. Steady-state inactivation curves of both components could be best fitted by a Boltzmann function with membrane potential values at half-maximal inactivation of -85.5 and -98.1 mV for the fast and slow components, respectively. 7. It was concluded that two different subtypes of LVA Ca2+ channel are present in LD neurones. Only the fast type is well expressed at the earliest postnatal stage (P12). The slow type could be found at the end of the second week (P14). The amplitude of the slow current increased progressively up to P17, obviously coinciding with dendritic expansion as judged by progressive increase of the membrane capacitance of the corresponding neurones. This property appears to differentiate neurones of the associative nuclei from neurones of other thalamic nuclei.

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