Ionic currents and firing patterns of mammalian vagal motoneurons in vitro. Academic Article uri icon


  • The electrophysiological properties of guinea-pig dorsal vagal motoneurons were studied in an in vitro slice preparation. Antidromic, orthodromic and direct stimulation of the neurons demonstrated that the action potential is comprised of several distinct components: a fast initial spike followed by afterdepolarization and an early and a late afterhyperpolarizations. The fast initial spike and the early afterhyperpolarization were blocked by tetrodotoxin and tetraethylammonium ions, respectively. The afterdepolarization (present on the falling phase of the spike) and the late afterhyperpolarization were blocked by the addition of ions known to block calcium conductance (CdCl2, CoCl2 or MnCl2), indicating close association between these two potentials. Prolonged outward current injection through the recording electrode produced two different firing patterns, depending on the initial level of the membrane potential. From resting potential (usually -60 mV) the firing pattern was characterized by a short train of action potentials appearing shortly after the onset of the depolarization step. By contrast, when the depolarization was delivered from a hyperpolarized membrane potential level, a short train of repetitive firing appeared after an initial delay of 300-400 ms. The membrane current responsible for this initial reduction in excitability was studied by means of a single-electrode voltage-clamp technique. The magnitude, direction and kinetics of such current flow are consistent with the presence of early potassium current (IA), partly inactive at the resting potential. Synaptic activation of vagal motoneurons could be obtained by electrical stimulation of the tissue surrounding the vagal nucleus or by direct activation of the vagal nerve. Perivagal stimulation generated excitatory and inhibitory synaptic potentials which could be reversed by shifting the membrane potential. Vagal nerve stimulation, in addition to the antidromic activation of the cells, generated depolarizing responses which were unitary in nature and did not show much sensitivity to shifts in membrane potential. Perivagal and vagal nerve-evoked depolarizations could generate action potentials as well as partial dendritic spikes. We conclude that spike electroresponsiveness in vagal motoneurons is generated by voltage-dependent Na+ and Ca2+ conductances. In addition, the Ca2+-dependent current triggers a K+ conductance which is responsible for modulating the firing frequency obtained from the normal resting level.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

publication date

  • December 1985