Ca(2+)-dependent large conductance K(+) currents in thalamocortical relay neurons of different rat strains

Pflugers Arch. 2013 Apr;465(4):469-80. doi: 10.1007/s00424-012-1188-6. Epub 2012 Dec 4.


Mutations in genes coding for Ca(2+) channels were found in patients with childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) indicating a contribution of Ca(2+)-dependent mechanisms to the generation of spike-wave discharges (SWD) in humans. Since the involvement of Ca(2+) signals remains unclear, the aim of the present study was to elucidate the function of a Ca(2+)-dependent K(+) channel (BKCa) under physiological conditions and in the pathophysiological state of CAE. The activation of BKCa channels is dependent on both voltage and intracellular Ca(2+) concentrations. Moreover, these channels exhibit an outstandingly high level of regulatory heterogeneity that builds the basis for the influence of BKCa channels on different aspects of neuronal activity. Here, we analyse the contribution of BKCa channels to firing of thalamocortical relay neurons, and we test the hypothesis that BKCa channel activity affects the phenotype of a genetic rat model of CAE. We found that the activation of the β2-adrenergic receptor/protein kinase A pathway resulted in BKCa channel inhibition. Furthermore, BKCa channels affect the number of action potentials fired in a burst and produced spike frequency adaptation during tonic activity. The latter result was confirmed by a computer modelling approach. We demonstrate that the β2-adrenergic inhibition of BKCa channels prevents spike frequency adaptation and, thus, might significantly support the tonic firing mode of thalamocortical relay neurons. In addition, we show that BKCa channel functioning differs in epileptic WAG/Rij and thereby likely contributes to highly synchronised, epileptic network activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epilepsy, Absence / genetics
  • Epilepsy, Absence / metabolism
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2 / metabolism
  • Thalamus / cytology
  • Thalamus / metabolism*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology


  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta-2
  • Cyclic AMP-Dependent Protein Kinases
  • Calcium