Sodium-dependent potassium channels of a Slack-like subtype contribute to the slow afterhyperpolarization in lamprey spinal neurons


Corresponding author P. Wallén: Nobel Institute for Neurophysiology, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden. Email:


The slow afterhyperpolarization (sAHP) following the action potential is the main determinant of spike frequency regulation. The sAHP after single action potentials in neurons of the lamprey locomotor network is largely due to calcium-dependent K+ channels (80%), activated by calcium entering the cell during the spike. The residual (20%) component becomes prominent during high level activity (50% of the sAHP). It is not Ca2+ dependent, has a reversal potential like that of potassium, and is not affected by chloride injection. It is not due to rapid activation of Na+/K+-ATPase. This non-KCa-sAHP is reduced markedly in amplitude when sodium ions are replaced by lithium ions, and is thus sodium dependent. Quinidine also blocks this sAHP component, further indicating an involvement of sodium-dependent potassium channels (KNa). Modulators tested do not influence the KNa-sAHP amplitude. Immunofluorescence labelling with an anti-Slack antibody revealed distinct immunoreactivity of medium-sized and large neurons in the grey matter of the lamprey spinal cord, suggesting the presence of a Slack-like subtype of KNa channel. The results strongly indicate that a KNa potassium current contributes importantly to the sAHP and thereby to neuronal frequency regulation during high level burst activity as during locomotion. This is, to our knowledge, the first demonstration of a functional role for the Slack gene in contributing to the slow AHP.