A-type K+ current of dopamine and GABA neurons in the ventral tegmental area

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Aug;96(2):544-54. doi: 10.1152/jn.01318.2005. Epub 2006 Apr 12.


A-type K(+) current (I(A)) is a rapidly inactivating voltage-dependent potassium current which can regulate the frequency of action potential (AP) generation. Increased firing frequency of ventral tegmental area (VTA) neurons is associated with the reinforcing effects of some drugs of abuse like nicotine and ethanol. In the present study, we classified dopamine (DA) and GABA VTA neurons, and investigated I(A) properties and the physiological role of I(A) in these neurons using conventional whole cell current- and voltage-clamp recording. DA VTA neurons had a mean firing frequency of 3.5 Hz with a long AP duration. GABA VTA neurons had a mean firing frequency of 16.7 Hz with a short AP duration. For I(A) properties, the voltage-dependence of steady-state I(A) activation and inactivation was similar in DA and GABA VTA neurons. I(A) inactivation was significantly faster and became faster at positive voltages in GABA neurons than DA neurons. Recovery from inactivation was significantly faster in DA neurons than GABA neurons. I(A) current density at full recovery was significantly larger in DA neurons than GABA neurons. In DA and GABA VTA neurons, latency to the first AP after the recovery from membrane hyperpolarization (repolarization latency) was measured. Longer repolarization latency was accompanied by larger I(A) current density in DA VTA neurons, compared with GABA VTA neurons. We suggest that I(A) contributes more to the regulation of AP generation in DA VTA neurons than in GABA VTA neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • 4-Aminopyridine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Cadmium / pharmacology
  • Dopamine / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / cytology
  • Ventral Tegmental Area / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Potassium Channels
  • Cadmium
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • 4-Aminopyridine
  • Dopamine