Journal of Neurophysiology

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Low extracellular magnesium induces epileptiform activity and spreading depression in rat hippocampal slices

I. Mody, J. D. Lambert, U. Heinemann


The effect of low extracellular Mg2+ concentration ([Mg2+]o) on neuronal activity was studied in rat hippocampal slices. After 20–40 min of perfusion with Mg2+-free medium, when [Mg2+]o declined to approximately 0.1–0.4 mM, spontaneous field potentials developed in the CA1 and CA3 regions, but not in the dentate gyrus. In the CA3 pyramidal cell layer, these potentials consisted of repetitive (0.3–0.5 Hz), 40- to 120-ms-long positive deflections (2–5 mV) with superimposed population spikes. In the stratum (str.) pyramidale of the CA1 region, positive-negative deflections (less than 3 mV) lasting for 30–80 ms were observed, which occurred with a frequency of 0.3-0.5 Hz. In some cases, longer lasting and rapidly recurring events were also observed. In CA3 pyramidal cells, the intracellular correlates of the field potential transients were 20- to 30-mV paroxysmal depolarization shifts (PDS) with superimposed bursts of action potentials, followed by large (greater than 10 mV), 500- to 1,200-ms-long afterhyperpolarizations (AHP). In contrast, pyramidal neurons of the CA1 area did not show PDSs; instead, sequences of excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs)/inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) accompanied the transient field potential changes. Occasionally, spontaneous EPSPs/IPSPs, occurring with high frequencies, could also be observed in CA1 without any field potential transients. In both hippocampal regions, the epileptiform activity evolved without significant alterations in the resting membrane potential (RMP) and input resistance (RN) of the neurons, although a 2- to 5-mV reduction in action potential threshold was noted. The spontaneous activity in Mg2+-free medium was readily suppressed by raising the extracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]o) from 1.6 to 3.6 mM. The perfusion of 10-30 microns DL-2-amino-5-phosphonovaleric acid (2-APV), an antagonist for the glutamate receptors of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) type, also attenuated or reversibly blocked the spontaneous activity. Surgical isolation of area CA1 from CA3 ceased the occurrence of the transients in CA1 but not in CA3. The synaptic input/output curves were shifted to the left in the absence of [Mg2+]o. Threshold intensity for eliciting population spikes was 50-75% of that in normal medium. Paired-pulse facilitation was still present near threshold, but was reduced at higher stimulus intensities. Decreases in [Ca2+]o, produced by repetitive stimulation (20-Hz/5-10 s) of the Schaffer collateral/commissural pathway and monitored with ion-selective microelectrodes in the CA1 region, were enhanced in Mg2+-free medium.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)