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Potassium currents in the hair cells of vestibular epithelium: position-dependent expression of two types of A channels


Professor I. Prigioni, as above.


The complement of voltage-dependent K+ currents was investigated in hair cells of the frog crista ampullaris. The currents were recorded in transversal slices of the peripheral, intermediate and central regions of the crista by applying the patch clamp technique to cells located at different positions in the slices. Voltage-clamp recordings confirmed that cells located in each region have a distinctive complement of K+ channels. Detailed investigation of the currents in each region revealed that the complement of K+ channels in intermediate and central regions showed no variations among cells, whereas peripheral hair cells differed in the expression of two classes of A-type currents. These currents showed different kinetics of inactivation as well as steady-state inactivation properties. We termed these currents fast IA and slow IA based on their inactivation speed. The magnitude of both currents exhibited a significant gradient along the transversal axis of the peripheral regions. Fast IA magnitude was maximal in cells located in the external zone of the crista slice and decreased gradually to become very small in the median zone (centre) of the section, while the gradient of slow IA magnitude was reversed. A-type currents appear to act as a transient buffer that opposes hair cell depolarization induced by positive current injections. However, fast IA is partially active at the cell resting potential, while slow IA can be recruited only following large hyperpolarizations. Thus, two types of A currents are differentially distributed in vestibular hair cells and have different roles in shaping receptor potential.