Immunohistochemical localization of Ih channel subunits, HCN1-4, in the rat brain

J Comp Neurol. 2004 Apr 5;471(3):241-76. doi: 10.1002/cne.11039.


Hyperpolarization-activated cation currents (I(h)) contribute to various physiological properties and functions in the brain, including neuronal pacemaker activity, setting of resting membrane potential, and dendritic integration of synaptic input. Four subunits of the Hyperpolarization-activated and Cyclic-Nucleotide-gated nonselective cation channels (HCN1-4), which generate I(h), have been cloned recently. To better understand the functional diversity of I(h) in the brain, we examined precise immunohistochemical localization of four HCNs in the rat brain. Immunoreactivity for HCN1 showed predominantly cortical distribution, being intense in the neocortex, hippocampus, superior colliculus, and cerebellum, whereas those for HCN3 and HCN4 exhibited subcortical distribution mainly concentrated in the hypothalamus and thalamus, respectively. Immunoreactivity for HCN2 had a widespread distribution throughout the brain. Double immunofluorescence revealed colocalization of immunoreactivity for HCN1 and HCN2 in distal dendrites of pyramidal cells in the hippocampus and neocortex. At the electron microscopic level, immunogold particles for HCN1 and HCN2 had similar distribution patterns along plasma membrane of dendritic shafts in layer I of the neocortex and stratum lacunosum moleculare of the hippocampal CA1 area, suggesting that these subunits could form heteromeric channels. Our results further indicate that HCNs are localized not only in somato-dendritic compartments but also in axonal compartments of neurons. Immunoreactivity for HCNs often occurred in preterminal rather than terminal portions of axons and in specific populations of myelinated axons. We also found HCN2-immunopositive oligodendrocytes including perineuronal oligodendrocytes throughout the brain. These results support previous electrophysiological findings and further suggest unexpected roles of I(h) channels in the brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / ultrastructure
  • Brain Chemistry* / physiology
  • Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Cation Channels
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels
  • Ion Channels / analysis*
  • Ion Channels / biosynthesis
  • Male
  • Muscle Proteins / analysis
  • Muscle Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / analysis*
  • Neurons / chemistry
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Potassium Channels
  • Protein Subunits / analysis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Cation Channels
  • Hcn1 protein, rat
  • Hcn2 protein, rat
  • Hyperpolarization-Activated Cyclic Nucleotide-Gated Channels
  • Ion Channels
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Potassium Channels
  • Protein Subunits