Neurons dissociated from rat myenteric plexus retain differentiated properties when grown in cell culture. II. Electrophysiological properties and responses to neurotransmitter candidates.
We have used intracellular recordings to study the electrophysiological and pharmacological properties of neurons that have been grown in cell cultures after having been dissociated from the myenteric plexus of the small intestine of newborn rats. Studies of action potential mechanisms revealed that all of the neurons could generate Na+-dependent action potentials in the presence of Ca2+-channel blockers and that about 70% could generate Ca2+-dependent action potentials when Na+ channels were blocked with tetrodotoxin. No neurons generated long afterhyperpolarizations after single action potentials but about 50% of neurons did so following trains of action potentials. Over 95% of the neurons tested accommodated rapidly to sustained depolarization. The effects of several enteric neurotransmitter candidates were studied by superfusing or pressure-ejecting test solutions while recording neuronal responses. All of the cultured neurons tested had nicotinic responses to acetylcholine. Subsets of neurons responded to muscarinic cholinergic agonists (slow depolarization and increased excitability), serotonin (fast depolarization or slow depolarization and increased excitability), gamma-aminobutyrate (fast depolarization), substance P (slow depolarization, biphasic fast and slow depolarization or increased excitability without a change in membrane potential), vasoactive intestinal peptide (slow depolarization and increased excitability), or [Met]enkephalin (slow hyperpolarization and/or decreased action potential duration). We conclude that myenteric neurons grown in cell culture retain many of the physiological and pharmacological properties that they have in situ. Such cultures will permit detailed biophysical and pharmacological studies of the mechanisms of action of enteric neurotransmitter candidates.