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Concept: Depolarization


During navigation, grid cells increase their spike rates in firing fields arranged on a markedly regular triangular lattice, whereas their spike timing is often modulated by theta oscillations. Oscillatory interference models of grid cells predict theta amplitude modulations of membrane potential during firing field traversals, whereas competing attractor network models predict slow depolarizing ramps. Here, using in vivo whole-cell recordings, we tested these models by directly measuring grid cell intracellular potentials in mice running along linear tracks in virtual reality. Grid cells had large and reproducible ramps of membrane potential depolarization that were the characteristic signature tightly correlated with firing fields. Grid cells also demonstrated intracellular theta oscillations that influenced their spike timing. However, the properties of theta amplitude modulations were not consistent with the view that they determine firing field locations. Our results support cellular and network mechanisms in which grid fields are produced by slow ramps, as in attractor models, whereas theta oscillations control spike timing.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Organelle, Neurology, Phase, Membrane potential, Field, Potential, Depolarization


Understanding mechanisms that orchestrate cell behavior into appropriately patterned tissues and organs within the organism is an essential element of preventing, detecting and treating cancer. Bioelectric signals (resting transmembrane voltage potential gradients in all cells) underlie an important and broadly conserved set of control mechanisms that regulate pattern formation. We tested the role of transmembrane potential in tumorigenesis mediated by canonical oncogenes in Xenopus laevis. Depolarized membrane potential (Vmem) was a characteristic of induced tumor-like structures (ITLSs) generated by overexpression of Gli1, Kras(G12D), Xrel3 or p53(Trp248). This bioelectric signature was also present in precursor ITLS sites. Vmem is a bioelectric marker that reveals ITLSs before they become histologically and morphologically apparent. Moreover, voltage was functionally important: overexpression of hyperpolarizing ion transporters caused a return to normal Vmem and significantly reduced ITLS formation in vivo. To characterize the molecular mechanism by which Vmem change regulates ITLS phenotypes, we performed a suppression screen. Vmem hyperpolarization was transduced into downstream events via Vmem-regulated activity of SLC5A8, a sodium-butyrate exchanger previously implicated in human cancer. These data indicate that butyrate, a histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor, might be responsible for transcriptional events that mediate suppression of ITLSs by hyperpolarization. Vmem is a convenient cellular parameter by which tumors induced by human oncogenes can be detected in vivo and represents a new diagnostic modality. Moreover, control of resting membrane potential is functionally involved in the process by which oncogene-bearing cells depart from normal morphogenesis programs to form tumors. Modulation of Vmem levels is a novel and promising strategy for tumor normalization.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Cancer, Action potential, Membrane potential, Postsynaptic potential, Resting potential, Depolarization


The anticonvulsant Retigabine is a KV7 channel agonist used to treat hyperexcitability disorders in humans. Retigabine shifts the voltage dependence for activation of the heteromeric KV7.2/KV7.3 channel to more negative potentials, thus facilitating activation. Although the molecular mechanism underlying Retigabine’s action remains unknown, previous studies have identified the pore region of KV7 channels as the drug’s target. This suggested that the Retigabine-induced shift in voltage dependence likely derives from the stabilization of the pore domain in an open (conducting) conformation. Testing this idea, we show that the heteromeric KV7.2/KV7.3 channel has at least two open states, which we named O1 and O2, with O2 being more stable. The O1 state was reached after short membrane depolarizations, whereas O2 was reached after prolonged depolarization or during steady state at the typical neuronal resting potentials. We also found that activation and deactivation seem to follow distinct pathways, suggesting that the KV7.2/KV7.3 channel activity displays hysteresis. As for the action of Retigabine, we discovered that this agonist discriminates between open states, preferentially acting on the O2 state and further stabilizing it. Based on these findings, we proposed a novel mechanism for the therapeutic effect of Retigabine whereby this drug reduces excitability by enhancing the resting potential open state stability of KV7.2/KV7.3 channels. To address this hypothesis, we used a model for action potential (AP) in Xenopus laevis oocytes and found that the resting membrane potential became more negative as a function of Retigabine concentration, whereas the threshold potential for AP firing remained unaltered.

Concepts: Stabilizer, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Membrane potential, Potassium channel, Resting potential, Depolarization, Reversal potential


Are significant abnormalities in outward (K(+)) conductance and resting membrane potential (Vm) present in the spermatozoa of patients undertaking IVF and ICSI and if so, what is their functional effect on fertilization success?

Concepts: Reproduction, Fertility, Spermatozoon, Membrane biology, Membrane potential, Fertilisation, Resting potential, Depolarization


Cytotoxic brain edema triggered by neuronal swelling is the chief cause of mortality following brain trauma and cerebral infarct. Using fluorescence lifetime imaging to analyze contributions of intracellular ionic changes in brain slices, we find that intense Na(+) entry triggers a secondary increase in intracellular Cl(-) that is required for neuronal swelling and death. Pharmacological and siRNA-mediated knockdown screening identified the ion exchanger SLC26A11 unexpectedly acting as a voltage-gated Cl(-) channel that is activated upon neuronal depolarization to membrane potentials lower than -20 mV. Blockade of SLC26A11 activity attenuates both neuronal swelling and cell death. Therefore cytotoxic neuronal edema occurs when sufficient Na(+) influx and depolarization is followed by Cl(-) entry via SLC26A11. The resultant NaCl accumulation causes subsequent neuronal swelling leading to neuronal death. These findings shed light on unique elements of volume control in excitable cells and lay the ground for the development of specific treatments for brain edema.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Cell membrane, Ion, Membrane potential, Resting potential, Cerebral edema, Depolarization


Memantine and ketamine, voltage- and activation-dependent channel blockers of NMDA receptors (NMDARs), have enjoyed a recent resurgence in clinical interest. Steady-state pharmacodynamic differences between these blockers have been reported, but it is unclear whether the compounds differentially affect dynamic physiological signaling. Here we explored non-equilibrium conditions relevant to synaptic transmission in hippocampal networks in dissociated culture and hippocampal slices. Equimolar memantine and ketamine had indistinguishable effects on the following measures: steady-state NMDA currents, NMDAR EPSC decay kinetics, progressive EPSC inhibition during repetitive stimulation, and extrasynaptic NMDAR inhibition. Therapeutic drug efficacy and tolerability of memantine have been attributed to fast kinetics and strong voltage dependence. However, pulse depolarization in drug presence revealed a surprisingly slow and similar time course of equilibration for the two compounds, although memantine produced a more prominent fast component (62 vs. 48%) of re-equilibration. Simulations predicted that low gating efficacy underlies the slow voltage-dependent relief from block. This prediction was empirically supported by faster voltage-dependent blocker re-equilibration with several experimental manipulations of gating efficacy. EPSP-like voltage commands produced drug differences only with large, prolonged depolarizations unlikely to be attained physiologically. In fact, we found no difference between drugs on measures of spontaneous network activity or acute effects on plasticity in hippocampal slices. Despite indistinguishable synaptic pharmacodynamics, ketamine provided significantly greater neuroprotection from damage induced by oxygen glucose deprivation, consistent with the idea that under extreme depolarizing conditions, the biophysical difference between drugs becomes detectable. We conclude that despite subtle differences in voltage dependence, during physiological activity, blocker pharmacodynamics are largely indistinguishable and largely voltage independent.

Concepts: Thermodynamics, Difference, NMDA receptor, Drug addiction, Recreational drug use, Depolarization, NMDA receptor antagonists


Neurons in the medial entorhinal cortex exhibit a grid-like spatial pattern of spike rates that has been proposed to represent a neural code for path integration. To understand how grid cell firing arises from the combination of intrinsic conductances and synaptic input in medial entorhinal stellate cells, we performed patch-clamp recordings in mice navigating in a virtual-reality environment. We found that the membrane potential signature of stellate cells during firing field crossings consisted of a slow depolarization driving spike output. This was best predicted by network models in which neurons receive sustained depolarizing synaptic input during a field crossing, such as continuous attractor network models of grid cell firing. Another key feature of the data, phase precession of intracellular theta oscillations and spiking with respect to extracellular theta oscillations, was best captured by an oscillatory interference model. Thus, these findings provide crucial new information for a quantitative understanding of the cellular basis of spatial navigation in the entorhinal cortex.

Concepts: Neuron, Brain, Cell membrane, Action potential, Hippocampus, Cerebellum, Membrane potential, Depolarization


Hypokalemic periodic paralysis (HypoPP) is a familial skeletal muscle disorder that presents with recurrent episodes of severe weakness lasting hours to days associated with reduced serum potassium (K+). HypoPP is genetically heterogeneous, with missense mutations of a calcium channel (CaV1.1) or a sodium channel (NaV1.4) accounting for 60% and 20% of cases, respectively. The mechanistic link between CaV1.1 mutations and the ictal loss of muscle excitability during an attack of weakness in HypoPP is unknown. To address this question, we developed a mouse model for HypoPP with a targeted CaV1.1 R528H mutation. The Cav1.1 R528H mice had a HypoPP phenotype for which low K+ challenge produced a paradoxical depolarization of the resting potential, loss of muscle excitability, and weakness. A vacuolar myopathy with dilated transverse tubules and disruption of the triad junctions impaired Ca2+ release and likely contributed to the mild permanent weakness. Fibers from the CaV1.1 R528H mouse had a small anomalous inward current at the resting potential, similar to our observations in the NaV1.4 R669H HypoPP mouse model. This “gating pore current” may be a common mechanism for paradoxical depolarization and susceptibility to HypoPP arising from missense mutations in the S4 voltage sensor of either calcium or sodium channels.

Concepts: Mutation, Action potential, Sodium, Potassium, Ion channels, Point mutation, Channelopathy, Depolarization


In this work, we discuss the interest of using the indices of polarimetric purity (IPPs) as a criterion for the characterization and classification of depolarizing samples. We prove how differences in the depolarizing capability of samples, not seen by the commonly used depolarization index PΔ, are identified by the IPPs. The above-stated result is analyzed from a theoretical point of view and experimentally verified through a set of polarimetric measurements. We show how the approach presented here can be useful in easily synthetizing depolarizing samples with controlled depolarizing features, just by properly combining low-cost fully polarizing elements (such as linear retarders or polarizers).

Concepts: Optics, Polarization, Birefringence, Index, Depolarization, Polarizer, Polarimetry


Rodent thoracic veins are characterized by an extended myocardial coating. In the present study, the electrical activity in the cardiac tissue of the rat azygos vein (AZV) was investigated for the first time. The atrial-like action potentials (AP) and atrial-like conduction of the excitation were observed in the rat AZV under continuous electrical pacing. Termination of electrical pacing resulted in spontaneous positive shift of resting membrane potential (RMP) in AZV. Boradrenaline induced biphasic effects on RMP in all quiescent AZV preparations but only in 25% preparations-bursts of spontaneous AP, which were suppressed by both α- and β-adrenoreceptor antagonists. Phenylephrine induced additional depolarization of RMP in quiescent AZV preparations, while isoproterenol caused hyperpolarization. In conclusion, bioelectrical properties of the rat AZV resemble those of atrial myocardium under continuous electrical pacing; however, depolarized RMP and NA-induced spontaneous AP characterize AZV as a tissue prone to rare automaticity.

Concepts: Blood, Heart, Cardiac muscle, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Membrane potential, Resting potential, Depolarization