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J Physiol. 2006 May 15;573(Pt 1):83-106. Epub 2006 Mar 9.

Kinetic and functional analysis of transient, persistent and resurgent sodium currents in rat cerebellar granule cells in situ: an electrophysiological and modelling study.

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Dipartimento di Scienze Fisiologiche-Farmacologiche Cellulari-Molecolari, Sezione di Fisiologia Generale e Biofisica Cellulare, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Via Forlanini 6, 27100 Pavia, Italy.


Cerebellar neurones show complex and differentiated mechanisms of action potential generation that have been proposed to depend on peculiar properties of their voltage-dependent Na+ currents. In this study we analysed voltage-dependent Na(+) currents of rat cerebellar granule cells (GCs) by performing whole-cell, patch-clamp experiments in acute rat cerebellar slices. A transient Na+ current (I(NaT)) was always present and had the properties of a typical fast-activating/inactivating Na+ current. In addition to I(NaT), robust persistent (I(NaP)) and resurgent (I(NaR)) Na+ currents were observed. I(NaP) peaked at approximately -40 mV, showed half-maximal activation at approximately -55 mV, and its maximal amplitude was about 1.5% of that of I(NaT). I(NaR) was elicited by repolarizing pulses applied following step depolarizations able to activate/inactivate I(NaT), and showed voltage- and time-dependent activation and voltage-dependent decay kinetics. The conductance underlying I(NaR) showed a bell-shaped voltage dependence, with peak at -35 mV. A significant correlation was found between GC I(NaR) and I(NaT) peak amplitudes; however, GCs expressing I(NaT) of similar size showed marked variability in terms of I(NaR) amplitude, and in a fraction of cells I(NaR) was undetectable. I(NaT), I(NaP) and I(NaR) could be accounted for by a 13-state kinetic scheme comprising closed, open, inactivated and blocked states. Current-clamp experiments carried out to identify possible functional correlates of I(NaP) and/or I(NaR) revealed that in GCs single action potentials were followed by depolarizing afterpotentials (DAPs). In a majority of cells, DAPs showed properties consistent with I(NaR) playing a role in their generation. Computer modelling showed that I(NaR) promotes DAP generation and enhances high-frequency firing, whereas I(NaP) boosts near-threshold firing activity. Our findings suggest that special properties of voltage-dependent Na+ currents provides GCs with mechanisms suitable for shaping activity patterns, with potentially important consequences for cerebellar information transfer and computation.

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