Expression of membrane currents in rat diencephalic neurons in serum-free culture

Z. Ahmed, J. A. Connor, D. W. Tank, R. E. Fellows

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The whole-cell gigaseal voltage clamp technique has been used to investigate the timing of expression and type of voltage-dependent ionic currents in dissociated primary cultures of fetal rat (E17) diencephalic neurons grown in a serum-free defined medium. The expression of membrane currents varied among cells at any particular time in culture. Despite this variability, certain characteristics of the appearance of ionic currents emerge from this study. These are: (i) the earliest appearing membrane current is a voltage-dependent outward current carried by K+. In some cells, it is the classical delayed rectifier current, whereas in others it is the transient outward current (IA). (ii) The earliest appearing inward current is carried by Na+. In some cells the channels are first expressed in the neurites and then in or near the cell body. The early neuritic Na+ channels are blocked by cobalt or cadmium as well as by tetrodotoxin (TTX). In others, the early Na+ channels appear in or near the cell body and are only blocked by TTX. (iii) With additional time in culture, a majority of cells exhibit a Ca2+ current at the time of Na+ channel appearance in or near the cell body as well as a transient Ca2+-dependent outward current. The Ca2+ current is only a small fraction of the total inward current. These inward currents show the classical pharmacologic profile. The complex pattern of expression of ionic current may reflect multiple populations of neurons with different developmental sequences resulting from differences in cell age and lineage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-231
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1986
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


  • diencephalic neuron
  • expression of excitability
  • membrane current
  • serum-free culture
  • whole-cell voltage clamp


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