alexa Extracellular K+ in the supraoptic nucleus of the rat during reflex bursting activity by oxytocin neurones.
Pharmaceutical Sciences

Pharmaceutical Sciences

Biochemistry & Pharmacology: Open Access

Author(s): Coles JA, Poulain DA

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Abstract 1. We have investigated changes in extracellular potassium concentration [K+]o in the supraoptic nucleus of lactating rats and in particular those that occur during the intense burst of firing by the oxytocin neurones involved in the milk ejection reflex. 2. Double-barrelled K(+)-selective microelectrodes containing a highly selective sensor based on valinomycin were lowered through the exposed cortex towards the supraoptic nucleus (SON) of female rats anaesthetized with urethane. The mean resting [K+]o in the hypothalami of five rats was 2.4 mM, S.D. = 0.3 mM. 3. Where the reference barrel recorded extracellular action potentials from an oxytocin cell, the reflex burst of firing (4 s, typical maximum 50 Hz) was accompanied by a mean increase in [K+]o (delta[K+]o) of 0.22 mM (S.E.M. = 0.02 mM, fifty-seven bursts in eight cells in seven rats). The rise in [K+]o did not begin more than 0.1 s before the onset of the burst, and began to fall from its maximum during the burst. Slow field potentials, indicative of spatial buffering of K+, were undetectable (less than 50 microV). When the electrode was advanced in steps, the amplitudes of both delta[K+]o and the action potential declined steeply to about 10\% over a distance of 20 microns: K+ from oxytocin cells appears to be prevented from dispersing freely through the extracellular space of the SON. 4. When the electrode recorded action potentials from a vasopressin cell, delta[K+]o during an oxytocin cell burst was very small: 0.021 mM (S.E.M. = 0.005 mM). At other sites in the SON, where antidromic stimulation evoked a field potential but no action potential, delta[K+]o was 0.047 +/- 0.005 mM. We conclude that the reason oxytocin bursts do not affect vasopressin cells is that [K+]o rises very little around vasopressin cells. A fortiori, since the increases in [K+]o were very small except where action potentials from oxytocin cells were recorded, they can make no significant contribution to synchronizing the onsets of bursts in oxytocin cells that are not contiguous. 5. A standard antidromic stimulation from the pituitary stalk, at 40 Hz for 4 s, which stimulated both oxytocin neurones and vasopressin neurones, caused a delta[K+]o of 0.17-1.8 mM, the variation being mainly from rat to rat. The larger delta[K+]o values were accompanied by slow negative potentials of up to 1.5 mV, there was a gradient in delta[K+]o decreasing towards the pia at the inferior limit of the SON, and there was a slow increase in [K+] in the subarachnoid space.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
This article was published in J Physiol and referenced in Biochemistry & Pharmacology: Open Access

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