The role of BK-type Ca2+-dependent K+ channels in spike broadening during repetitive firing in rat hippocampal pyramidal cells



  • 1The role of large-conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channels (BK-channels; also known as maxi-K- or slo-channels) in spike broadening during repetitive firing was studied in CA1 pyramidal cells, using sharp electrode intracellular recordings in rat hippocampal slices, and computer modelling.
  • 2Trains of action potentials elicited by depolarizing current pulses showed a progressive, frequency-dependent spike broadening, reflecting a reduced rate of repolarization. During a 50 ms long 5 spike train, the spike duration increased by 63·6 ± 3·4% from the 1st to the 3rd spike. The amplitude of the fast after-hyperpolarization (fAHP) also rapidly declined during each train.
  • 3Suppression of BK-channel activity with (a) the selective BK-channel blocker iberiotoxin (IbTX, 60 nM), (b) the non-peptidergic BK-channel blocker paxilline (2–10 μM), or (c) calcium-free medium, broadened the 1st spike to a similar degree (≈60%). BK-channel suppression also caused a similar change in spike waveform as observed during repetitive firing, and eliminated (occluded) most of the spike broadening during repetitive firing.
  • 4Computer simulations using a reduced compartmental model with transient BK-channel current and 10 other active ionic currents, produced an activity-dependent spike broadening that was strongly reduced when the BK-channel inactivation mechanism was removed.
  • 5These results, which are supported by recent voltage-clamp data, strongly suggest that in CA1 pyramidal cells, fast inactivation of a transient BK-channel current (ICT), substantially contributes to frequency-dependent spike broadening during repetitive firing.