Distinctive membrane and discharge properties of rat spinal lamina I projection neurones in vitro

J Physiol. 2004 Mar 1;555(Pt 2):527-43. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2003.054049. Epub 2003 Dec 23.


Most lamina I neurones with a projection to the brainstem express the neurokinin 1 receptor and thus belong to a small subgroup of lamina I neurones that are necessary for the development of hyperalgesia in rat models of persisting pain. These neurones are prone to synaptic plasticity following primary afferent stimulation in the noxious range while other nociceptive lamina I neurones are not. Here, we used whole-cell patch-clamp recordings from lamina I neurones in young rat spinal cord transverse slices to test if projection neurones possess membrane properties that set them apart from other lamina I neurones. Neurones with a projection to the parabrachial area or the periaqueductal grey (PAG) were identified by retrograde labelling with the fluorescent tracer DiI. The properties of lamina I projection neurones were found to be fundamentally different from those of unidentified, presumably propriospinal lamina I neurones. Two firing patterns, the gap and the bursting firing pattern, occurred almost exclusively in projection neurones. Most spino-parabrachial neurones showed the gap firing pattern while the bursting firing pattern was characteristic of spino-PAG neurones. The underlying membrane currents had the properties of an A-type K(+) current and a Ca(2+) current with a low activation threshold, respectively. Projection neurones, especially those of the burst firing type, were more easily excitable than unidentified neurones and received a larger proportion of monosynaptic input from primary afferent C-fibres. Intracellular labelling with Lucifer yellow showed that projection neurones had larger somata than unidentified neurones and many had a considerable extension in the mediolateral plane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Cell Size
  • Dendrites / drug effects
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Isoquinolines
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Membranes / physiology
  • Nerve Fibers, Unmyelinated / physiology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / ultrastructure
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels / drug effects
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spinal Cord / cytology*
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / cytology
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology
  • Stereotaxic Techniques


  • Calcium Channels
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Isoquinolines
  • Potassium Channels
  • lucifer yellow