Developmental change in the electrophysiological and pharmacological properties of acid-sensing ion channels in CNS neurons


Corresponding author Z.-G. Xiong,: Robert S. Dow Neurobiology Laboratories, Legacy Clinical Research Center, 1225 NE 2nd Ave, Portland, OR 97232, USA.  Email:


Acid-sensing ion channels (ASICs) are proton-gated cation channels that play important roles in the CNS including synaptic plasticity and acidosis-mediated neuronal injury. ASIC1a and ASIC2a subunits are predominant in CNS neurons, where homomultimeric and heteromultimeric channel configurations co-exist. Since ASIC1a and ASIC2a have dramatic differences in pH sensitivity, Ca2+ permeability and channel kinetics, any change in the level of individual subunits may have significant effects on the properties and functions of ASICs. Using patch-clamp recording, fluorescent Ca2+ imaging and molecular biological techniques, we show dramatic developmental changes in the properties of ASICs in mouse cortical neurons. For example, the amplitude of ASIC currents increases whereas desensitization decreases with neuronal maturation. Decreased H+ affinity and acid-evoked [Ca2+]i but increased Zn2+ potentiation were also recorded in mature neurons. RT-PCR revealed significant increases in the ratio of ASIC2/ASIC1 mRNA with neuronal maturation. Thus, contributions of ASIC1a and ASIC2a to overall ASIC-mediated responses undergo distinct developmental changes. These findings may help in understanding the precise role of ASICs in physiological and pathological conditions at different developmental stages.