Voltage-gated potassium channels play an important role in shaping membrane properties that underlie neurons' discharge patterns and the ways in which they transform their input. In the auditory system, low threshold potassium currents such as those created by Kv1.1 subunits contribute to precise phaselocking and to transient onset responses that provide time markers for temporal features of sounds. The purpose of the present study was to compare information about the distribution of neurons expressing the KV 1.1 in the brainstem auditory nuclei with the distribution of neurons with known functional properties in the auditory system of the big brown bat, Eptesicus fuscus. We used immunocytochemistry and light microscopy to look at the distribution of Kv1.1 subunits in the brainstem auditory nuclei. There was prominent expression in cell types known to contain high levels of Kv1.1 in other species and known to respond to auditory signals with high temporal precision. These included octopus cells and spherical bushy cells of the cochlear nucleus and principal neurons of the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body. In addition, we found high levels of Kv1.1 in neurons of the columnar subdivision of the ventral nucleus of the lateral lemniscus and in ventral periolivary cell groups. Neurons with high levels of Kv1.1 were differentially distributed in the intermediate nucleus of the lateral lemniscus and in the inferior colliculus, suggesting that these structures contain functionally distinct cell populations, some of which may be involved in high-precision temporal processing.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.