Specific functions of synaptically localized potassium channels in synaptic transmission at the neocortical GABAergic fast-spiking cell synapse

J Neurosci. 2005 May 25;25(21):5230-5. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0722-05.2005.


Potassium (K+) channel subunits of the Kv3 subfamily (Kv3.1-Kv3.4) display a positively shifted voltage dependence of activation and fast activation/deactivation kinetics when compared with other voltage-gated K+ channels, features that confer on Kv3 channels the ability to accelerate the repolarization of the action potential (AP) efficiently and specifically. In the cortex, the Kv3.1 and Kv3.2 proteins are expressed prominently in a subset of GABAergic interneurons known as fast-spiking (FS) cells and in fact are a significant determinant of the fast-spiking discharge pattern. However, in addition to expression at FS cell somata, Kv3.1 and Kv3.2 proteins also are expressed prominently at FS cell terminals, suggesting roles for Kv3 channels in neurotransmitter release. We investigated the effect of 1.0 mM tetraethylammonium (TEA; which blocks Kv3 channels) on inhibitory synaptic currents recorded in layer II/III neocortical pyramidal cells. Spike-evoked GABA release by FS cells was enhanced nearly twofold by 1.0 mM TEA, with a decrease in the paired pulse ratio (PPR), effects not reproduced by blockade of the non-Kv3 subfamily K+ channels also blocked by low concentrations of TEA. Moreover, in Kv3.1/Kv3.2 double knock-out (DKO) mice, the large effects of TEA were absent, spike-evoked GABA release was larger, and the PPR was lower than in wild-type mice. Together, these results suggest specific roles for Kv3 channels at FS cell terminals that are distinct from those of Kv1 and large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels (also present at the FS cell synapse). We propose that at FS cell terminals synaptically localized Kv3 channels keep APs brief, limiting Ca2+ influx and hence release probability, thereby influencing synaptic depression at a synapse designed for sustained high-frequency synaptic transmission.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Action Potentials / radiation effects
  • Aminopyridines / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Interactions
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mice
  • Neocortex / cytology*
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / radiation effects
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Photons
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Tetraethylammonium / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology


  • Aminopyridines
  • Peptides
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Potassium Channels
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Tetraethylammonium
  • iberiotoxin
  • Calcium