Journal of Neurophysiology

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Epileptiform activity induced by changes in extracellular potassium in hippocampus

P. A. Rutecki, F. J. Lebeda, D. Johnston


Using extra- and intracellular recording techniques, we investigated the induction and frequency modulation of spontaneous epileptiform activity produced by changes in the concentration of extracellular potassium ([K+]o). This paper describes a quantitative relationship between [K+]o and the frequency of spontaneously occurring epileptiform events. Recordings were made from the CA3 subfield of the rat in vitro hippocampal slice preparation. Intracellular microelectrodes were filled with 2 M Cs2SO4 and connected to a 3-kHz, time-share, single-electrode current- and voltage-clamp device. The frequency of spontaneous epileptiform (interictal) discharges was determined from extracellular recordings as a function of [K+]o. Current- and voltage-clamp techniques were used to characterize the intracellular correlate of these epileptiform events. The frequency of bicuculline-induced spontaneous epileptiform discharges was dependent on [K+]o. Below 4 mM [K+]o, spontaneous discharges occurred sporadically in the presence of 10 microM bicuculline. Increasing [K+]o from 5 to 10 mM caused a fivefold increase in the rate of spontaneous discharges. Spontaneous epileptiform discharges also occurred in the absence of bicuculline when [K+]o was increased above 6.5 mM. The rate of these discharges was dependent on [K+]o in much the same way as the discharges induced by bicuculline. For any given [K+]o concentration greater than 6.5 mM, however, the resultant discharge rate was faster than that obtained when bicuculline was present in the bathing solution. Simultaneous intra- and extracellular recordings revealed that the spontaneous high-[K+]o-induced interictal discharge was accompanied by a large depolarization of the membrane potential that appeared similar to the paroxysmal depolarizing shift (PDS) seen with other convulsants. The intracellularly recorded event fulfilled the criteria for a synaptically mediated PDS. The waveform of the PDS was complex and dependent on the membrane potential. When the membrane potential was held at 0 mV, spontaneously occurring hyperpolarizing potentials were noted during the inter-PDS interval. These events were blocked by picrotoxin or bicuculline and were probably spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. The complexity of the PDS waveform suggested that more than one synaptic conductance was involved in the generation of the PDS. The mean measured reversal potential of the depolarizing phase was -10.7 mV. Voltage-clamp techniques were used to measure the conductance underlying the depolarizing phase of the high-[K+]o-induced PDS. The mean measured conductance was 51.5 nS, with a reversal potential of -7.9 mV.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)