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J Neurosci. 1995 Oct;15(10):6720-34.

Consequences and mechanisms of spike broadening of R20 cells in Aplysia californica.

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Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


We studied frequency-dependent spike broadening in the two electrically coupled R20 neurons in the abdominal ganglion of Aplysia. The peptidergic R20 cells excite the R25/L25 interneurons (which trigger respiratory pumping) and inhibit the RB cells. When fired at 1-10 Hz, the duration of the falling phase of the action potential in R20 neurons increases 2-10 fold during a spike train. Spike broadening recorded from the somata of the R20 cells affected synaptic transmission to nearby follower cells. Chemically mediated synaptic output was reduced by approximately 50% when recorded trains of nonbroadened action potentials were used as command signals for a voltage-clamped R20 cell. Electrotonic EPSPs between the R20 cells, which normally facilitated by two- to fourfold during a high frequency spike train, showed no facilitation when spike broadening was prevented under voltage-clamp control. To examine the mechanism of frequency-dependent spike broadening, we applied two-electrode voltage-clamp and pharmacological techniques to the somata of R20 cells. Several voltage-gated ionic currents were isolated, including INa, a multicomponent ICa, and three K+ currents--a high threshold, fast transient A-type K+ current (IAdepol), a delayed rectifier K+ current (IK-V), and a Ca(2+)-sensitive K+ current (IK-Ca), made up of two components. The influences of different currents on spike broadening were determined by using the recorded train of gradually broadening action potentials as the command for the voltage clamp. We found the following. (1) IAdepol is the major outward current that contributes to repolarization of nonbroadened spikes. It undergoes pronounced cumulative inactivation that is a critical determinant of spike broadening. (2) Activity-dependent changes in IK-V, IK-Ca, and ICa have complex effects on the kinetics and extent of broadening. (3) The time integral of ICa during individual action potentials increases approximately threefold during spike broadening.

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