Characterization of an apamin-sensitive potassium current in suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons

K. Teshima, S. H. Kim, C. N. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, spike frequency adaptation and membrane afterhyperpolarization occur during a train of action potentials. Extracellular Ca2+ may regulate neuronal excitability by several mechanisms, including activation of small conductance and large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels. The overall goal of this study was to examine the role of Ca2+-activated K+ currents in individual suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons. To this end, we used the nystatin-perforated patch technique to record currents from suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons. Iberiotoxin and tetraethylammonium, antagonists of large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels, had no effect on the membrane afterhyperpolarization. However, antagonists of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels, apamin and d-tubocurarine, reduced the amplitude of the membrane afterhyperpolarization and inhibited the spike frequency adaptation that occurred during a train of action potentials. Although there was no significant difference in membrane AHP between different portions of the circadian day, apamin and d-tubocurarine increased the spontaneous firing frequency of suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons during the daytime. In voltage-clamp mode, membrane depolarization-activated currents were followed by an outward tail current reversing near the K+ equilibrium potential. The tail current decayed with a time constant of 220 ms at +20 mV and 149 ms at -40 mV. Apamin irreversibly and d-tubocurarine reversibly inhibited the tail current. The tail current amplitude was also reduced by the GABAA receptor antagonist, bicuculline methiodide, while picrotoxin (another GABAA receptor antagonist) was without effect. Removal of extracellular Ca2+ or the addition of Cd2+ reversibly inhibited the tail current. These results indicate that apamin- and d-tubocurarine-sensitive small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels have a modulatory function on the action potential firing frequency as well as the membrane afterhyperpolarization that follows a train of action potentials in suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons. Importantly, our data also indicate that a portion of the effects of bicuculline methiodide on suprachiasmatic nucleus neurons may be mediated by inhibition of small conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-73
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 4 2003


  • Action potential
  • Apamin
  • Calcium-activated potassium channel
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Membrane afterhyperpolarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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