The cell bodies of the neurons in the giant fiber lobe (GFL) of the squid stellate ganglion give rise to axons that fuse and thereby form the third-order giant axon, whose initial portion functions as the postsynaptic element of the squid giant synapse. We have developed a preparation of dissociated, cultured cells from this lobe and have studied the voltage-dependent conductances using patch-clamp techniques. This system offers a unique opportunity for comparing the properties and regional differentiation of ionic channels in somatic and axonal membranes within the same cell. Some of these cells contain a small inward Na current which resembles that found in axon with respect to tetrodotoxin sensitivity, voltage dependence, and inactivation. More prominent is a macroscopic inward current, carried by Ca2+, which is likely to be the result of at least two kinetically distinct types of channels. These Ca channels differ in their closing kinetics, voltage range and time course of activation, and the extent to which their conductance inactivates. Thedominant current in these GFL neurons is outward and is carried by K+. It can be accounted for by a single type of voltage-dependent channel. This conductance resembles the K conductance of the axon, except that it partially inactivates during relatively short depolarizations. Ensemble fluctuation analysis of K currents obtained from excised outside-out patches is consistent with a single type of K channel and yields estimates for the single channel conductance of ~13 pS, independently of membrane potential. A preliminary analysis of single channel data supports the conclusion that there is a single type of voltagedependent, inactivating K channel in the GFL neurons.
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