In central neurons the first node of Ranvier is located at the first axonal branchpoint, ∼ 100 μm from the axon initial segment where synaptic inputs are integrated and converted into action potentials (APs). Whether the first node contributes to this signal transformation is not well understood. Here it was found that in neocortical layer 5 axons, the first branchpoint is required for intrinsic high-frequency (≥ 100 Hz) AP bursts. Furthermore, block of nodal Na(+) channels or axotomy of the first node in intrinsically bursting neurons depolarized the somatic AP voltage threshold (∼ 5 mV) and eliminated APs selectively within a high-frequency cluster in response to steady currents or simulated synaptic inputs. These results indicate that nodal persistent Na(+) current exerts an anterograde influence on AP initiation in the axon initial segment, revealing a computational role of the first node of Ranvier beyond conduction of the propagating AP.
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