Inward rectifier potassium currents and calcium-dependent potassium currents have been studied in cultured embryonic mouse motoneurons. Sustained unitary inward rectifier potassium currents were recorded from cell-attached patches and the channel conductance was dependent on external K + concentration with a value of 25 pS when external K + was 140 mM. The channel open probability exhibited a sigmoidal dependence on potential with the largest values (near 0.7) at depolarizing patch potentials. Inactivating inward rectifier potassium currents were also recorded in some cell-attached patches following voltage steps to hyperpolarizing potentials with the rate of inactivation faster with larger hyperpolarizing steps. Whole-cell inward rectifier potassium currents increased from an initial level to a steady-state level with hyperpolarizing steps to −120 mV from a holding potential of −60 mV; with larger hyperpolarizing commands the peak currents decayed to the steady-state. The steady-state current-voltage relation exhibited a region of negative slope resistance. External Cs + (0.5–1 mM) reduced the amplitudes of macroscopic currents and diminished the open times of unitary currents consistent with block of open rectifying channels with an estimated K D for channel block of 1 mM. A large conductance calcium-dependent potassium channel was isolated in inside-out patches with a conductance of 240 pS with symmetrical 140 mM K + across the patches and a conductance of 110 pS when the external K + was reduced to 5 mM. With symmetrical K + the channel open probability exhibited a sigmoid dependence on potential with the largest values, in excess of 0.8, associated with patch depolarization. The dependence of open variability on potential was dependent on the concentrations of internal Ca 2+ and external K + .Properties of inward rectifier and calcium-dependent K + channels, such as the voltage dependence of open probability, are involved in the establishment of cellular excitability in motoneurons. Future studies will be useful to investigate whether channel properties of motoneurons are altered after cell treatment with neurotoxic agents including oxygen radicals of excitotoxic amino acids.
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