Functional interplay between NMDA receptors, SK channels and voltage-gated Ca2+ channels regulates synaptic excitability in the medial prefrontal cortex

J Physiol. 2010 Apr 15;588(Pt 8):1281-92. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.185645. Epub 2010 Mar 1.


Synaptic activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is fundamental for higher cognitive functions such as working memory. The present study shows that small conductance (SK) calcium-activated potassium channels attenuate excitatory synaptic transmission at layer 2/3 and layer 5 inputs to layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the mPFC. SK channels are located postsynaptically at synapses where they are activated during synaptic transmission by calcium influx through NMDA receptors, L-type calcium channels, R-type calcium channels and by calcium release from IP(3)-sensitive stores. Removal of the SK channel-mediated shunt of synaptic transmission reveals significant NMDA receptor-mediated activation during basal synaptic transmission, which is greater at layer 5 inputs (approximately 30%) than at layer 2/3 inputs (approximately 20%). These findings show that interactions between NMDA receptors, SK channels and voltage-gated calcium channels play a critical role in regulating excitatory synaptic transmission in layer 5 pyramidal neurons in the mPFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / physiology
  • Calcium Channels, R-Type / physiology
  • Cell Communication
  • Female
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*
  • Small-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Calcium Channels, L-Type
  • Calcium Channels, R-Type
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Small-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Calcium