Journal of Neurophysiology

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Multiple potassium conductances and their role in action potential repolarization and repetitive firing behavior of neonatal rat hypoglossal motoneurons

F. Viana, D. A. Bayliss, A. J. Berger


1. The role of multiple potassium conductances in action potential repolarization and repetitive firing behavior of hypoglossal motoneurons was investigated using intracellular recording techniques in a brain stem slice preparation of the neonatal rat (0-15 days old). 2. The action potential was followed by two distinct afterhyperpolarizations (AHPs). The early one was of short duration and is termed the fAHP; the later AHP was of longer duration and is termed the mAHP. The amplitudes of both AHPs were enhanced by membrane potential depolarization (further from EK). In addition, their amplitudes were reduced by high extracellular K+ concentration, suggesting that activation of potassium conductances underlies both phases of the AHP. 3. Prolongation of the action potential and blockade of the fAHP were observed after application of 1) tetraethylammonium (TEA) (1-10 mM) and 2) 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) (0.1-0.5 mM). Calcium channel blockers had little or no effect on the fAHP or action potential duration. 4. The size of the mAHP was diminished by 1) manganese, 2) lowering external Ca2+, 3) apamin, and 4) intracellular injection of ethylene glycol-bis(beta-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (EGTA) suggesting that influx of calcium activates the potassium conductance that underlies the mAHP. 5. The mAHP was unaffected by nifedipine (20 microM), but was strongly reduced by focal application of omega-conotoxin GVIA, suggesting that N-type calcium channels represent the major calcium influx pathway for activation of the calcium-dependent K+ conductance underlying the mAHP. 6. Repetitive firing properties were investigated by injecting long-duration depolarizing current pulses. Steady-state firing rose linearly with injected current amplitude. The slope of the firing frequency-current (f-I) relationship averaged approximately 30 Hz/nA in control conditions. Blockade of the conductance underlying the mAHP caused a marked increase in the minimal repetitive firing frequency and in the slope of the f-I plot, indicating a prominent role for the conductance underlying the mAHP in controlling repetitive firing behavior. 7. We conclude that action potential repolarization and AHPs are due to activation of pharmacologically distinct potassium conductances. Whereas repolarization of the action potential and the fAHP involves primarily a voltage-dependent, calcium-independent potassium conductance that is TEA- and 4-AP-sensitive, the mAHP requires the influx of extracellular calcium and is apamin sensitive. Activation of the calcium-activated potassium conductance greatly influences the normal repetitive firing of neonatal hypoglossal motoneurons.