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J Physiol. 1987 Apr;385:287-306.

Electrophysiological properties of ependymal cells (radial glia) in dorsal cortex of the turtle, Pseudemys scripta.

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Department of Neurology, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA 94305.


1. We have investigated the electrophysiological properties of ependymal cells in the isolated dorsal cortex of the turtle, Pseudemys scripta. The cell bodies of these radial glia form an epithelium at the ventricular surface, and each cell sends one or more branching processes through the cortex to the pial surface. Very few non-ependymal glia exist in the dorsal cortex. 2. Ependymal cells had high resting membrane potentials (-90 mV), very fast time constants and a lack of intrinsic excitability or synaptic potentials. 3. Changes in the K+ concentration ([K+]) of the bathing solution caused near-Nernstian changes of ependymal membrane potentials. When local neuronal pathways were activated, ependymal cells slowly depolarized while extracellular voltage shifted negatively. Simultaneous measurements of extracellular [K+] ([K+]o) near the impaled ependymal cell body showed that these slow depolarizations were fully accounted for by activity-dependent increases in [K+]o. Similar measurements during focal pressure applications of solutions with high [K+] suggested that intrasomatic recordings reflect predominantly the [K+]o adjacent to the cell body, and not the intracortical process. 4. Intracellular injections of the fluorescent dye Lucifer Yellow CH, and simultaneous recordings from neighbouring cells, indicated that ependymal cells are chemically and electrically coupled to one another. Increasing the ambient CO2 level from 5 to 40% depolarized cells, increased their input resistance, and abolished interglial dye coupling. 5. The physiological properties of ependymal cells are very similar to those of a variety of glial cell types in a range of vertebrate and invertebrate species. In the absence of other types of glia, radial glia may function as the sole cellular mediators of K+ redistribution (i.e. K+ spatial buffering) following neural activity, as well as the generators of slow extracellular potentials.

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