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J Neurophysiol. 2006 Nov;96(5):2364-76. Epub 2006 Jul 19.

Heterogeneous potassium conductances contribute to the diverse firing properties of postnatal mouse vestibular ganglion neurons.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Virginia, MR4, Room 5126, Box 801392, Charlottesville, VA 22908-1392, USA.


How mechanical information is encoded in the vestibular periphery has not been clarified. To begin to address the issue we examined the intrinsic firing properties of postnatal mouse vestibular ganglion neurons using the whole cell, tight-seal technique in current-clamp mode. We categorized two populations of neurons based on the threshold required to evoke an action potential. Low-threshold neurons fired with an average minimum current injection of -43 pA, whereas high-threshold neurons required -176 pA. Using sine-wave stimuli, we found that the neurons were inherently tuned with best frequencies that ranged up to 40 Hz. To investigate the membrane properties that contributed to the variability in firing properties we examined the same neurons in voltage-clamp mode. High-threshold neurons had larger cell bodies and whole cell capacitances but a resting conductance density of 0.18 nS/pF, nearly identical to that of low-threshold neurons, suggesting that cell size was an important parameter determining threshold. We also found that vestibular ganglion neurons expressed a heterogeneous population of potassium conductances. TEA-sensitive conductances contributed to the position of the tuning curve in the frequency domain. A 4-AP-sensitive conductance was active at rest and hyperpolarized resting potential, limited spontaneous activity, raised threshold, and prevented repetitive firing. In response to sine-wave stimulation 4-AP-sensitive conductances prevented action potential generation at low frequencies and thus contributed to the high-pass corner of the tuning curve. The mean low-pass corner (about 29 Hz) was determined by the membrane time constant. Together these factors contributed to the sharply tuned, band-pass characteristics intrinsic to postnatal vestibular ganglion neurons.

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