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Membrane currents of spiking cells isolated from turtle retina

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We examined the membrane properties of spiking neurons isolated from the turtle (Pseudemys scripta) retina. The cells were maintained in culture for 1–7 days and were studied with the whole cell patch clamp technique. We utilized cells whose perikaryal diameters were >15 μm since Kolb (1982) reported that ganglion cell perikarya in Pseudemys retina are 13–25 μm, whereas amacrine perikarya are less than 14 μm in diameter.

We identified 5 currents in the studied cells: (1) a transient sodium current (INa) blocked by TTX, (2) a sustained calcium current (ICa) blocked by cobalt and enhanced by Bay-K 8644, (3) a calcium-dependent potassium current (IK(Ca)) (4) an A-type transient potassium current (IA) somewhat more sensitive to 4-AP than TEA, (5) a sustained potassium current (IK) more sensitive to TEA than 4-AP.

The estimated average input resistance of the cells at — 70 mV was 720 ± 440 MΩ. When all active currents were blocked, the membrane resistance between — 130 and +20 mV was 2.5 GΩ.

When examined under current clamp, some cells produced multiple spikes to depolarizing steps of 0.1–0.3 nA, whereas other cells produced only a single spike irrespective of the strength of the current pulse. Most single spikers had an outward current that rose to a peak relatively slowly, whereas multiple spikers tend to have a more rapidly activating outward current.

Under current clamp, 4-AP slowed the repolarization phase of the spike thus broadening it, but did not always abolish the ability to produce multiple spikes. TEA induced a depolarized plateau following the initial spike which precluded further spikes. It thus appears that the spiking patterns of the retinal cells are shaped primarily by the kinetics of INa, IK and IA and to a lesser extent by IK(Ca).

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Lasater, E.M., Witkovsky, P. Membrane currents of spiking cells isolated from turtle retina. J Comp Physiol A 167, 11–21 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00192402

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Key words

  • Retina
  • Ganglion cells
  • Whole cell voltage clamp
  • Action potential formation