Relative location of inhibitory synapses and persistent inward currents determines the magnitude and mode of synaptic amplification in motoneurons

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Feb;99(2):583-94. doi: 10.1152/jn.00718.2007. Epub 2007 Nov 28.


In some motoneurons, L-type Ca2+ channels that partly mediate persistent inward currents (PICs) have been estimated to be arranged in 50- to 200-microm-long discrete regions in the dendrites, centered 100 to 400 microm from the soma. As a consequence of this nonuniform distribution, the interaction between synaptic inputs to motoneurons and these channels may vary according to the distribution of the synapses. For instance, >93% of synapses from Renshaw cells have been observed to be located 65 to 470 microm away from the cell body of motoneurons. Our goal was to assess whether Renshaw cell synapses are distributed in a position to more effectively control the activation of the L-type Ca2+ channels. Using compartmental models of motoneurons with L-type Ca2+ channels distributed in 100-microm-long hot spots centered 100 to 400 microm away from the soma, we compared the inhibition generated by four distributions of inhibitory synapses: proximal, distal, uniform, and one based on the location of Renshaw cell synapses on motoneurons. Regardless of whether the synapses were activated tonically or transiently, in the presence of L-type Ca2+ channels, inhibitory synapses distributed according to the Renshaw cell synapse distribution generate the largest inhibitory currents. The effectiveness of a particular distribution of inhibitory synapses in the presence of PICs depends on their ability to deactivate the channels underlying PICs, which is influenced not only by the superposition between synapses and channels, but also by the distance away from the somatic voltage clamp.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / physiology
  • Cats
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / radiation effects
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Ion Channel Gating / radiation effects
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / radiation effects
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / radiation effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Calcium Channels, L-Type