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Non-linear leak currents affect mammalian neuron physiology.

S Huang, S Hong, E De Schutter

Frontiers in cellular neuroscience 9:432 (2015)

Abstract - In their seminal works on squid giant axons, Hodgkin, and Huxley approximated the membrane leak current as Ohmic, i.e., linear, since in their preparation, sub-threshold current rectification due to the influence of ionic concentration is negligible. Most studies on mammalian neurons have made the same, largely untested, assumption. Here we show that the membrane time constant and input resistance of mammalian neurons (when other major voltage-sensitive and ligand-gated ionic currents are discounted) varies non-linearly with membrane voltage, following the prediction of a Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz-based passive membrane model. The model predicts that under such conditions, the time constant/input resistance-voltage relationship will linearize if the concentration differences across the cell membrane are reduced. These properties were observed in patch-clamp recordings of cerebellar Purkinje neurons (in the presence of pharmacological blockers of other background ionic currents) and were more prominent in the sub-threshold region of the membrane potential. Model simulations showed that the non-linear leak affects voltage-clamp recordings and reduces temporal summation of excitatory synaptic input. Together, our results demonstrate the importance of trans-membrane ionic concentration in defining the functional properties of the passive membrane in mammalian neurons as well as other excitable cells.

PMID: 26594148 [PubMed]