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Correlation between electrophysiological and morphological characteristics during maturation of rat supraoptic neurons


: Dr Michel G. Desarménien, as above.


The neurohypophysial peptides oxytocin (OT) and vasopressin (AVP) are well known for their role in reproductive functions and fluid balance regulation, respectively. During development, these peptides are thought to act as trophic factors on both peripheral and central structures. However, despite this early developmental function, the maturation of their secreting neurons remains poorly investigated. In this study, we have characterized the electrical and morphological characteristics displayed by OT and AVP supraoptic (SO) neurons between embryonic day 21 and postnatal day 20. Transient changes in passive membrane properties, correlated with a transient increase in the dendritic arborization, were observed at the beginning of the second postnatal week (PW2). The action potential matured mostly during PW1 and its threshold progressively hyperpolarized in parallel with the resting membrane potential. During PW1, SO neurons displayed unique characteristics with a low-threshold Ca2+-dependent depolarizing potential and a prominent hyperpolarization-activated current (Ih). This latter is involved in a depolarizing sag during hyperpolarization and an after hyperpolarizing potential following a depolarization. During this period, maintaining ECl unchanged by the use of gramicidin-perforated patch recordings revealed excitatory GABAergic potentials, that became inhibitory during PW2, whilst glutamatergic potential appeared. The electrical activity was very erratic in young neurons and progressively differentiated in the typical firing observed in mature neurons (tonic and phasic for OT and AVP neurons, respectively) during PW2–3. These results show that the development of electrical properties of SO neurons is correlated with the maturation of their dendritic arborization.