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A fast BK-type KCa current acts as a postsynaptic modulator of temporal selectivity for communication signals

DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2014.00286

Keywords: electrosensory, temporal processing, BK channel, calcium-activated pottasium channel, Synaptic integration, Spike frequency adaptation

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Abstract:

Temporal patterns of spiking often convey behaviorally relevant information. Various synaptic mechanisms and intrinsic membrane properties can influence neuronal selectivity to temporal patterns of input. However, little is known about how synaptic mechanisms and intrinsic properties together determine the temporal selectivity of neuronal output. We tackled this question by recording from midbrain electrosensory neurons in mormyrid fish, in which the processing of temporal intervals between communication signals can be studied in a reduced in vitro preparation. Mormyrids communicate by varying interpulse intervals (IPIs) between electric pulses. Within the midbrain posterior exterolateral nucleus (ELp), the temporal patterns of afferent spike trains are filtered to establish single-neuron IPI tuning. We performed whole-cell recording from ELp neurons in a whole-brain preparation and examined the relationship between intrinsic excitability and IPI tuning. We found that spike frequency adaptation of ELp neurons was highly variable. Postsynaptic potentials (PSPs) of strongly adapting (phasic) neurons were more sharply tuned to IPIs than weakly adapting (tonic) neurons. Further, the synaptic filtering of IPIs by tonic neurons was more faithfully converted into variation in spiking output, particularly at short IPIs. Pharmacological manipulation under current- and voltage-clamp revealed that tonic firing is mediated by a fast, large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (KCa) current (BK) that speeds up action potential repolarization. These results suggest that BK currents can shape the temporal filtering of sensory inputs by modifying both synaptic responses and PSP-to-spike conversion. Slow SK-type KCa currents have previously been implicated in temporal processing. Thus, both fast and slow KCa currents can fine-tune temporal selectivity.

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