KCNQ Channels Enable Reliable Presynaptic Spiking and Synaptic Transmission at High Frequency

Yihui Zhang, Dainan Li, Youad Darwish, Xin Fu, Laurence O. Trussell, Hai Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The presynaptic action potential (AP) is required to drive calcium influx into nerve terminals, resulting in neurotransmitter release. Accordingly, the AP waveform is crucial in determining the timing and strength of synaptic transmission. The calyx of Held nerve terminals of rats of either sex showed minimum changes in AP waveform during high-frequency AP firing. We found that the stability of the calyceal AP waveform requires KCNQ (KV7) K1 channel activation during high-frequency spiking activity. High-frequency presynaptic spikes gradually led to accumulation of KCNQ channels in open states which kept interspike membrane potential sufficiently negative to maintain Na1 channel availability. Blocking KCNQ channels during stimulus trains led to inactivation of presynaptic Na1, and to a lesser extent KV1 channels, thereby reducing the AP amplitude and broadening AP duration. Moreover, blocking KCNQ channels disrupted the stable calcium influx and glutamate release required for reliable synaptic transmission at high frequency. Thus, while KCNQ channels are generally thought to prevent hyperactivity of neurons, we find that in axon terminals these channels function to facilitate reliable high-frequency synaptic signaling needed for sensory information processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3305-3315
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number16
StatePublished - Apr 20 2022


  • KCNQ channels
  • action potential waveform
  • axon terminal
  • calyx of Held
  • channel inactivation
  • synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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