Differential responses to ω-agatoxin IVA in murine frontal cortex and spinal cord derived neuronal networks

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ω-Agatoxin-IVA is a well known P/Q-type Ca2+ channel blocker and has been shown to affect presynaptic Ca2+ currents as well postsynaptic potentials. P/Q-type voltage gated Ca2+ channels play a vital role in presynaptic neurotransmitter release and thus play a role in action potential generation. Monitoring spontaneous activity of neuronal networks on microelectrode arrays (MEAs) provides an important tool for examining this neurotoxin. Changes in extracellular action potentials are readily observed and are dependent on synaptic function. Given the efficacy of murine frontal cortex and spinal cord networks to detect neuroactive substances, we investigated the effects of ω-agatoxin on spontaneous action potential firing within these networks. We found that networks derived from spinal cord are more sensitive to the toxin than those from frontal cortex; a concentration of only 10 nM produced statistically significant effects on activity from spinal cord networks whereas 50 nM was required to alter activity in frontal cortex networks. Furthermore, the effects of the toxin on frontal cortex are more complex as unit specific responses were observed. These manifested as either a decrease or increase in action potential firing rate which could be statistically separated as unique clusters. Administration of bicuculline, a GABAA inhibitor, isolated a single response to ω-agatoxin, which was characterized by a reduction in network activity. These data support the notion that the two clusters detected with ω-agatoxin exposure represent differential responses from excitatory and inhibitory neuronal populations.

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