Long-term alteration of S-type potassium current and passive membrane properties in aplysia sensory neurons following axotomy

J Neurophysiol. 2002 May;87(5):2408-20. doi: 10.1152/jn.2002.87.5.2408.


In many neurons, axotomy triggers long-lasting alterations in excitability as well as regenerative growth. We have investigated mechanisms contributing to the expression of axotomy-induced, long-term hyperexcitability (LTH) of mechanosensory neurons in Aplysia californica. Electrophysiological tests were applied to pleural sensory neurons 5-10 days after unilateral crush of pedal nerves. Two-electrode current-clamp experiments revealed that compared with uninjured sensory neurons on the contralateral side of the body, axotomized sensory neurons consistently displayed alterations of passive membrane properties: notably, increases in input resistance (R(in)), membrane time constant (tau), and apparent input capacitance. In some cells, axotomy also depolarized the resting membrane potential (RMP). Axotomized sensory neurons showed a lower incidence of voltage relaxation ("sag") during prolonged hyperpolarizing pulses and greater depolarizations during long (2 s) but not brief (20 ms) pulses. In addition to a reduction in spike accommodation, axotomized sensory neurons displayed a dramatic decrease in current (rheobase) required to reach spike threshold during long depolarizations. The increase in tau was associated with prolongation of responses to brief current pulses and with a large increase in the latency to spike at rheobase. Two-electrode voltage-clamp revealed an axotomy-induced decrease in a current with two components: a leakage current component and a slowly activating, noninactivating outward current component. Neither component was blocked by agents known to block other K(+) currents in these neurons. In contrast to the instantaneous leakage current seen with hyperpolarizing and depolarizing steps, the late component of the axotomy-sensitive outward current showed a relatively steep voltage dependence with pulses to V(m) > -40 mV. These features match those of the S-type ("serotonin-sensitive") K(+) current, I(K,S). The close resemblance of I(K,S) to a background current mediated by TREK-1 (KCNK2) channels in mammals, raises interesting questions about alterations of this family of channels during axotomy-induced LTH in both Aplysia and mammals. The increase in apparent C(in) may be a consequence of the extensive sprouting that has been observed in axotomized sensory neurons near their somata, and the decrease in I(K,S) probably helps to compensate for the decrease in excitability that would otherwise occur as new growth causes both cell volume and C(in) to increase. In peripheral regions of the sensory neuron, a decrease in I(K,S) might enhance the safety factor for conduction across regenerating segments that are highly susceptible to conduction block.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aplysia
  • Axotomy
  • Electric Capacitance
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels / physiology


  • Potassium Channels
  • Potassium