Control of Action Potential-Driven Calcium Influx in GT1 Neurons by the Activation Status of Sodium and Calcium Channels

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An analysis of the relationship between electrical membrane activity and Ca2+ influx in differentiated GnRH-secreting (GT1) neurons revealed that most cells exhibited spontaneous, extracellular Ca2+-dependent action potentials (APs). Spiking was initiated by a slow pacemaker depolarization from a baseline potential between −75 and −50 mV, and AP frequency increased with membrane depolarization. More hyperpolarized cells fired sharp APs with limited capacity to promote Ca2+ influx, whereas more depolarized cells fired broad APs with enhanced capacity for Ca2+ influx. Characterization of the inward currents in GT1 cells revealed the presence of tetrodotoxin-sensitive Na+, Ni2+-sensitive T-type Ca2+, and dihydropyridine-sensitive L-type Ca2+ components. The availability of Na+ and T-type Ca2+ channels was dependent on the baseline potential, which determined the activation/inactivation status of these channels. Whereas all three channels were involved in the generation of sharp APs, L-type channels were solely responsible for the spike depolarization in cells exhibiting broad APs. Activation of GnRH receptors led to biphasic changes in cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i), with an early, extracellular Ca2+-independent peak and a sustained, extracellular Ca2+-dependent phase. During the peak [Ca2+]i response, electrical activity was abolished due to transient hyperpolarization. This was followed by sustained depolarization of cells and resumption of firing of increased frequency with a shift from sharp to broad APs. The GnRH-induced change in firing pattern accounted for about 50% of the elevated Ca2+ influx, the remainder being independent of spiking. Basal [Ca2+]i was also dependent on Ca2+ influx through AP-driven and voltage-insensitive pathways. Thus, in both resting and agonist-stimulated GT1 cells, membrane depolarization limits the participation of Na+ and T-type channels in firing, but facilitates AP-driven Ca2+ influx.

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