The role of altered sodium currents in action potential abnormalities of cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons from trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) human fetuses

Brain Res. 1990 Mar 5;510(2):229-36. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(90)91372-n.


Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) results in abnormalities in electrical membrane properties of cultured human fetal dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons. Action potentials have faster rates of depolarization and repolarization, with decreased spike duration, compared to diploid neurons. In order to analyze the faster depolarization rate observed in trisomic neurons, we examined sodium currents of cultured human fetal DRG neurons from trisomy 21 and control subjects, using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. The neurons were replated in culture to reduce dendritic spines. Two components of the sodium current were identified: (1) a fast, tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive current; and (2) a slow, TTX-resistant component. The inactivation curves of both current types in trisomic neurons showed a shift of approximately 10 mV towards more depolarized potentials compared to control neurons. Thus, whereas essentially all of the fast sodium channels were inactivated at normal resting potentials in control neurons, approximately 10% of these channels were available for activation in trisomy 21 cells. Furthermore, the fast current showed accelerated activation kinetics in trisomic neurons. The slow sodium current of trisomic neurons showed slower deactivation kinetics than control cells. No differences were observed between trisomic and control neurons in the maximal conductance or current densities of either fast or slow current components. These data indicate that the greater rate of depolarization in trisomy 21 neurons at resting potentials is primarily due to activation of residual fast sodium channels that also have a faster time course of activation.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiopathology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Sodium / physiology*


  • Ion Channels
  • Sodium