Nonstationary fluctuation analysis and direct resolution of single channel currents at postsynaptic sites

Biophys J. 1991 Feb;59(2):295-304. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(91)82223-8.


In order to measure unitary properties of receptor channels at the postsynaptic site, the noise within the decay phases of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) and of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-dependent excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in rat hippocampal neurons was studied by nonstationary fluctuation analysis. Least squares scaling of the mean current was used to circumvent the wide variation in amplitude of postsynaptic currents. The variance of fluctuations around the expected current was analyzed to calculate single channel conductance, and fluctuation kinetics were studied with power spectra. The single channel conductance underlying the IPSC was measured as 14 pS, whereas that underlying the EPSC was 42 pS. Openings of the EPSC channel could also be resolved directly in low-noise whole-cell recordings, allowing verification of the accuracy of the fluctuation analysis. The results are the first measurements of the properties of single postsynaptic channels activated during synaptic currents, and suggest that the technique can be widely applicable in investigations of synaptic mechanism and plasticity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate / pharmacology
  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione
  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electrophysiology / methods
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Quinoxalines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Ion Channels
  • Quinoxalines
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • 6-Cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione
  • 2-Amino-5-phosphonovalerate