Role of axonal NaV1.6 sodium channels in action potential initiation of CA1 pyramidal neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2008 Oct;100(4):2361-80. doi: 10.1152/jn.90332.2008. Epub 2008 Jul 23.


In many neuron types, the axon initial segment (AIS) has the lowest threshold for action potential generation. Its active properties are determined by the targeted expression of specific voltage-gated channel subunits. We show that the Na+ channel NaV1.6 displays a striking aggregation at the AIS of cortical neurons. To assess the functional role of this subunit, we used Scn8amed mice that are deficient for NaV1.6 subunits but still display prominent Na+ channel aggregation at the AIS. In CA1 pyramidal cells from Scn8amed mice, we found a depolarizing shift in the voltage dependence of activation of the transient Na+ current (INaT), indicating that NaV1.6 subunits activate at more negative voltages than other NaV subunits. Additionally, persistent and resurgent Na+ currents were significantly reduced. Current-clamp recordings revealed a significant elevation of spike threshold in Scn8amed mice as well as a shortening of the estimated delay between spike initiation at the AIS and its arrival at the soma. In combination with simulations using a realistic computer model of a CA1 pyramidal cell, our results imply that a hyperpolarized voltage dependence of activation of AIS NaV1.6 channels is important both in determining spike threshold and localizing spike initiation to the AIS. In addition to altered spike initiation, Scn8amed mice also showed a strongly reduced spike gain as expected with combined changes in persistent and resurgent currents and spike threshold. These results suggest that NaV1.6 subunits at the AIS contribute significantly to its role as spike trigger zone and shape repetitive discharge properties of CA1 neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Neurological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Motor Endplate / genetics
  • Motor Endplate / physiology
  • NAV1.6 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / ultrastructure
  • Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Sodium Channels / physiology*
  • Temperature


  • Calcium Channels
  • NAV1.6 Voltage-Gated Sodium Channel
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Potassium Channels
  • Scn8a protein, mouse
  • Sodium Channels