Rectification of currents activated by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in rat sympathetic ganglion neurones

J Physiol. 1990 Aug;427:625-55. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1990.sp018191.


1. The inward rectification of the whole-cell current evoked by acetylcholine (ACh) and other nicotinic agonists in rat sympathetic ganglion neurones has been studied using patch-clamp recording techniques. The selective nicotinic agonist 1,1-dimethyl-4-phenylpiperazinium iodide (DMPP) (20 microM) induced an average peak current of -367 pA at -50 mV but no detectable outward current at +50 mV. Similar observations were made with ACh and carbachol. 2. The current-voltage relation of the whole-cell response induced by DMPP was linear in the negative voltage range; however, there was no detectable outward current in the voltage range 0 to about +70 mV. Above +70 mV an outward current became clearly detectable. Rapid depolarizing jumps in the holding potential failed to reveal any rapidly decaying outward current. 3. The rectification was not alleviated by changing the main permeant cation, by removal of divalent cations from the intracellular or extracellular solutions or by altering the pH buffer in the extracellular solution from HEPES to Tris. 4. Intracellular magnesium ions can block the channel. This effect increases with depolarization, but dissociation outwards (i.e. permeation by Mg2+) appears to relieve the block at more extreme positive potentials. This effect alone, or in combination with the voltage dependence of the burst length, is unlikely to be able to account for the whole-cell rectification in intact cells, much less that seen in cells perfused with Mg2(+)-free intracellular medium. 5. When the reversal potential was shifted to approximately -50 mV (by the use of impermeant cations) nicotinic agonists produced small outward currents in the membrane potential range -20 to +10 mV while shifting it to about +40 mV produced small inward currents in the potential range 0 to +20 mV. The rectification therefore appears to be independent of the direction of current flow and is maximum at a potential positive to 0 mV. 6. At positive potentials the receptors desensitized much less than at negative potentials in the continued presence of agonist. Thus, exposure of the cells to a steady application of 30 microM-ACh produced no detectable response if the cell was at a positive potential, but when the cell was stepped to a negative potential in the continued presence of ACh (at a time when much of the ACh current would be expected to have desensitized), ACh induced a large inward current. The onset of the ACh current had a time constant of 10 ms. It then decayed with a time constant of 790 ms as desensitization developed.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dimethylphenylpiperazinium Iodide / pharmacology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / drug effects
  • Ganglia, Sympathetic / physiology*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Magnesium / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*


  • Ion Channels
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Dimethylphenylpiperazinium Iodide
  • Magnesium
  • Acetylcholine