1. The hyperpolarization that follows tetanic stimulation was recorded intra-axonally from the internodal region of intramuscular myelinated motor axons. 2. The peak amplitude of the posttetanic hyperpolarization (PTH) that followed stimulation at 20-100 Hz for ≤35 s increased with increasing train duration, reaching a maximum of 22 mV. PTH decayed over a time course that increased from tens to hundreds of seconds with increasing train duration. For a given frequency of stimulation the time integral of PTH was proportional to the number of stimuli in the train, averaging 3-4 mV · s per action potential. 3. Ouabain (0.1-1 mM) and cyanide (1 mM) depolarized the resting potential and abolished PTH. Tetanic stimulation in ouabain was followed by a slowly decaying depolarization (probably due to extra-axonal K+ accumulation) whose magnitude and duration increased as the duration of the train increased. 4. Axonal input resistance showed no consistent change during PTH in normal solution but increased during PTH in the presence of 3 mM Cs+ (which blocks axonal inward rectifier currents). 5. PTH was abolished when bath Na+ was replaced by Li+ or choline. PTH persisted after removal of bath Ca2+ and addition of 2 mM Mn2+. 6. Removal of bath K+ abolished the PTH recorded after brief stimulus trains and greatly reduced the duration of PTH recorded after longer stimulus trains. 7. A brief application of 10 mM K+, which normally depolarizes axons, produced a ouabain-sensitive hyperpolaration in axons bathed in K+-free solution. 8. These observations suggest that in these myelinated axons PTH is produced mainly by activation of an electrogenic Na+-K+-ATPase, rather than by changes in K+ permeability or transmembrane [K+] gradients. This conclusion is supported by calculations showing agreement between estimates of Na+ efflux/impulse based on PTH measurements and estimates of Na+ influx/impulse based on nodal voltage-clamp measurements. Pump activity also appears to contribute to the resting potential. 9. The stimulus intensity required to initiate a propagating action potential increased during PTH but decreased during the posttetanic depolarization recorded in ouabain. Thus changes in axonal excitability after tetanic stimulation correlate with changes in the posttetanic membrane potential. 10. Action potentials that propagated during PTH had a larger peak amplitude and were followed by a larger and longer depolarizing afterpotential than action potentials elicited at the resting potential. This enhancement of the depolarizing afterpotential is consistent with previous reports of an increased superexcitable period after action potentials evoked during PTH.
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