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J Neurophysiol. 1989 Jul;62(1):109-18.

Membrane properties of rat substantia gelatinosa neurons in vitro.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York 10032.


1. The membrane properties of substantia gelatinosa (SG) neurons in an in vitro adult rat transverse spinal cord slice preparation with attached dorsal root have been examined. Intracellular recordings were obtained from identified SG neurons. 2. Seventy-six percent of SG neurons exhibited a time-dependent anomalous rectification (AR) when the membrane was hyperpolarized from the resting potential. The time-dependent AR was blocked by cesium (Cs+, 2 mM) but not by barium (Ba2+, 2 mM). Application of Cs+ itself caused membrane hyperpolarization in those SG neurons that expressed the time-dependent AR. The activation of the time-dependent AR was maximal at potentials 5-10 mV below the resting membrane potential. 3. In a few SG neurons, the current-voltage relationship revealed a marked inward rectification, even though there was no detectable time-dependent anomalous rectification during hyperpolarization. Analysis of the Ba2+- and Cs+-sensitivity of these neurons confirmed that SG neurons expressed two distinct ARs, one of which is fast and Ba2+-sensitive and the other of which is time-dependent and Ba2+-insensitive. 4. Fifty-one percent of SG neurons exhibited a transient outward rectification when hyperpolarizing current pulses were applied from potentials more positive than -60 mV or when depolarizing pulses were applied from potentials more negative than -65 mV. The transient outward rectification persisted for 0.3-2 s when hyperpolarizing pulses were applied at -55 mV. 5. The transient outward rectification was associated with a decrease in membrane resistance and was enhanced in low K+ solutions. 4-aminopyridine (4-AP, 2 mM) reversibly blocked the transient outward rectification. 6. The time-dependent anomalous and transient outward rectifying currents exerted opposite effects on the firing properties of SG neurons. Activation of the time-dependent AR increased neuronal excitability. In neurons that exhibited the time-dependent AR, membrane depolarization caused the appearance of a rebound depolarization that resulted in the generation of spikes with only a short delay after application of the depolarizing pulse. In contrast, the transient outward rectifying current markedly delayed spike firing in response to depolarizing pulses. This delay was blocked by application of 4-AP. 7. The diversity in response properties of subpopulations of SG neurons may result in part from this heterogeneity in membrane properties.

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