Dissipation of transmembrane potassium gradient is the main cause of cerebral ischemia-induced depolarization in astrocytes and neurons

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Membrane potential (VM) depolarization occurs immediately following cerebral ischemia and is devastating for the astrocyte homeostasis and neuronal signaling. Previously, an excessive release of extracellular K+ and glutamate has been shown to underlie an ischemia-induced VM depolarization. Ischemic insults should impair membrane ion channels and disrupt the physiological ion gradients. However, their respective contribution to ischemia-induced neuronal and glial depolarization and loss of neuronal excitability are unanswered questions. A short-term oxygen-glucose deprivation (OGD) was used for the purpose of examining the acute effect of ischemic conditions on ion channel activity and physiological K+ gradient in neurons and glial cells. We show that a 30min OGD treatment exerted no measurable damage to the function of membrane ion channels in neurons, astrocytes, and NG2 glia. As a result of the resilience of membrane ion channels, neuronal spikes last twice as long as our previously reported 15min time window. In the electrophysiological analysis, a 30min OGD-induced dissipation of transmembrane K+ gradient contributed differently in brain cell depolarization: severe in astrocytes and neurons, and undetectable in NG2 glia. The discrete cellular responses to OGD corresponded to a total loss of 69% of the intracellular K+ contents in hippocampal slices as measured by Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS). A major brain cell depolarization mechanism identified here is important for our understanding of cerebral ischemia pathology. Additionally, further understanding of the resilient response of NG2 glia to ischemia-induced intracellular K+ loss and depolarization should facilitate the development of future stroke therapy.

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