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American Physiological Society

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Journal of Neurophysiology

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The large-conductance calcium-activated potassium (BK) channel is a critical regulator of neuronal action potential firing and follows two distinct trends in early postnatal development: an increase in total expression and a shift from the faster activating STREX isoform to the slower ZERO isoform. We analyzed the functional consequences of developmental trends in BK channel expression in hippocampal neurons isolated from neonatal rats aged 1 to 7 days. Following overnight cultures, action potentials and currents were recorded using whole cell patch-clamp electrophysiology. These neurons undergo a steady increase in excitability during this time, and the effect of blockade of BK channel activity with 100 nM iberiotoxin changes as the neurons mature. BK currents contribute significantly more to total potassium current and single action potentials in neurons of 1-day old rats (with BK blockade extending action potential duration by 0.46 ± 0.12 ms) than in those of 7-day old rats (with BK blockade extending action potential duration by 0.17 ± 0.05 ms). BK currents contribute consistently to maintain firing rates in neurons of 1-day old rats throughout extended action potential firing; BK blockade evenly depresses firing frequency across action potential trains. In neurons from 7-day old rats, BK blockade initially increases firing frequency and then progressively decreases frequency as firing continues, ultimately depressing neuronal firing rates to a greater extent than in the neurons from 1-day-old animals. These results are consistent with a transition from low expression of a fast-activating BK isoform (STREX) to high expression of a slower activating isoform (ZERO).

NEW & NOTEWORTHY This work describes the early developmental trends of large-conductance calcium-activated potassium (BK) channel activity. Early developmental trends in expression of BK channels, both total expression and relative isoform expression, have been previously reported, but little work describes the effect of these changes in expression patterns on excitability. Here, we show that early changes in BK channel expression patterns lead to changes in the role of BK channels in determining the action potential waveform and neuronal excitability.


Accepted version. Journal of Neurophysiology, Vol. 124, No. 3 (September 2020): 703-714. DOI. © 2020 American Physiological Society. Used with permission.

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