Functional coupling of diverse voltage-gated Ca2+ channels underlies high fidelity of fast dendritic Ca2+ signals during burst firing

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In CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons, the dendritic Ca2+ signal associated with somatic firing represents a fundamental activation code for several proteins. This signal, mediated by voltage-gated Ca2+ channels (VGCCs), varies along the dendrites. In this study, using a recent optical technique based on the low-affinity indicator Oregon Green 488 BAPTA-5N, we analysed how activation and deactivation of VGCCs produced by back-propagating action potentials (bAPs) along the apical dendrite shape the Ca2+ signal at different locations in CA1 hippocampal pyramidal neurons of the mouse. We measured, at multiple dendritic sites, the Ca2+ transients and the changes in membrane potential associated with bAPs at 50 μs temporal resolution and we estimated the kinetics of the Ca2+ current. We found that during somatic bursts, the bAPs decrease in amplitude along the apical dendrite but the amplitude of the associated Ca2+ signal in the initial 200 μm dendritic segment does not change. Using a detailed pharmacological analysis, we demonstrate that this effect is due to the perfect compensation of the loss of Ca2+ via high-voltage-activated (HVA) VGCCs by a larger Ca2+ component via low-voltage-activated (LVA) VGCCs, revealing a mechanism coupling the two VGCC families of K+ channels. More distally, where the bAP does not activate HVA-VGCCs, the Ca2+ signal is variable during the burst. Thus, we demonstrate that HVA- and LVA-VGCCs operate synergistically to stabilise Ca2+ signals associated with bAPs in the most proximal 200 μm dendritic segment.

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