Heterologous expression of the Kv3.1 potassium channel eliminates spike broadening and the induction of a depolarizing afterpotential in the peptidergic bag cell neurons. Academic Article uri icon


  • The bag cell neurons of Aplysia are a cluster of cells that control egg laying behavior. After brief synaptic stimulation, they depolarize and fire spontaneously for up to 30 min. During the first few seconds of this afterdischarge, the action potentials of the bag cell neurons undergo pronounced broadening. Single bag cell neurons in culture also show spike broadening in response to repeated depolarizations. This broadening is frequency-dependent and associated with the induction of a depolarizing afterpotential lasting minutes. In some neurons the depolarizing afterpotential is sufficient to trigger spontaneous firing. To test the possibility that spike broadening during stimulation is required to trigger the depolarizing afterpotential, we eliminated frequency-dependent broadening by heterologous expression of the Kv3.1 potassium channel. This channel has rapid activation and deactivation kinetics and no use-dependent inactivation. Expression of Kv3.1 prevented spike broadening and also eliminated the depolarizing afterpotential. Measurements of the integral of calcium current during voltage commands, which simulated the action potentials of the control neurons and those expressing Kv3.1, indicate that spike broadening produces up to a fivefold increase in calcium entry. Manipulations that limit calcium entry during action potentials or chelation of intracellular calcium using BAPTA AM prevented the induction of the depolarizing afterpotential. We conclude that spike broadening is essential for the induction of the depolarizing afterpotential probably by regulating calcium influx and suggest that one of the physiological roles of spike broadening may be to regulate long-term changes in neuronal excitability.

publication date

  • November 15, 1998