Kv3-like potassium channels are required for sustained high-frequency firing in basal ganglia output neurons

J Neurophysiol. 2011 Feb;105(2):554-70. doi: 10.1152/jn.00707.2010. Epub 2010 Dec 15.


The GABA projection neurons in the substantial nigra pars reticulata (SNr) are key output neurons of the basal ganglia motor control circuit. These neurons fire sustained high-frequency, short-duration spikes that provide a tonic inhibition to their targets and are critical to movement control. We hypothesized that a robust voltage-activated K(+) conductance that activates quickly and resists inactivation is essential to the remarkable fast-spiking capability in these neurons. Semi-quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) analysis on laser capture-microdissected nigral neurons indicated that mRNAs for Kv3.1 and Kv3.4, two key subunits for forming high activation threshold, fast-activating, slow-inactivating, 1 mM tetraethylammonium (TEA)-sensitive, fast delayed rectifier (I(DR-fast)) type Kv channels, are more abundant in fast-spiking SNr GABA neurons than in slow-spiking nigral dopamine neurons. Nucleated patch clamp recordings showed that SNr GABA neurons have a strong Kv3-like I(DR-fast) current sensitive to 1 mM TEA that activates quickly at depolarized membrane potentials and is resistant to inactivation. I(DR-fast) is smaller in nigral dopamine neurons. Pharmacological blockade of I(DR-fast) by 1 mM TEA impaired the high-frequency firing capability in SNr GABA neurons. Taken together, these results indicate that Kv3-like channels mediating fast-activating, inactivation-resistant I(DR-fast) current are critical to the sustained high-frequency firing in SNr GABA projection neurons and hence movement control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Female
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Shaw Potassium Channels / physiology*


  • Shaw Potassium Channels