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Voltage-Gated Potassium Channels Ensure Action Potential Shape Fidelity in Distal Axons

Authors
  • Gonzalez Sabater, Victoria
  • Rigby, Mark
  • Burrone, Juan
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Neuroscience
Publisher
Society for Neuroscience
Publication Date
Jun 23, 2021
Volume
41
Issue
25
Pages
5372–5385
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2765-20.2021
PMID: 34001627
PMCID: PMC8221596
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Disciplines
  • Research Articles
  • Cellular/Molecular
License
Unknown

Abstract

The initiation and propagation of the action potential (AP) along an axon allows neurons to convey information rapidly and across distant sites. Although AP properties have typically been characterized at the soma and proximal axon, knowledge of the propagation of APs toward distal axonal domains of mammalian CNS neurons remains limited. We used genetically encoded voltage indicators (GEVIs) to image APs with submillisecond temporal resolution simultaneously at different locations along the long axons of dissociated hippocampal neurons from rat embryos of either sex. We found that APs became sharper and showed remarkable fidelity as they traveled toward distal axons, even during a high-frequency train. Blocking voltage-gated potassium channels (Kv) with 4-AP resulted in an increase in AP width in all compartments, which was stronger at distal locations and exacerbated during AP trains. We conclude that the higher levels of Kv channel activity in distal axons serve to sustain AP fidelity, conveying a reliable digital signal to presynaptic boutons. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The AP represents the electrical signal carried along axons toward distant presynaptic boutons where it culminates in the release of neurotransmitters. The nonlinearities involved in this process are such that small changes in AP shape can result in large changes in neurotransmitter release. Since axons are remarkably long structures, any distortions that APs suffer along the way have the potential to translate into a significant modulation of synaptic transmission, particularly in distal domains. To avoid these issues, distal axons have ensured that signals are kept remarkably constant and insensitive to modulation during a train, despite the long distances traveled. Here, we uncover the mechanisms that allow distal axonal domains to provide a reliable and faithful digital signal to presynaptic terminals.

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