Small-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (SK channels) are widely expressed in CNS tissues. Their functions, however, have not been well studied. Participation of SK channels in Purkinje cell (PC) pacemaker activity has been studied predominantly in vitro. Here we studied for the first time the effects of SK channel activation by NS309 or CyPPA on the PC simple spike frequency in vivo in adult (3 - 6 months) and aged (22 - 28 months) rats using extracellular microelectrode recordings. Both pharmacological agents caused a statistically significant decrease in the PC simple spike frequency. The maximum value of the decrease in the simple spike frequency did not depend on age, whereas a statistically significant inhibition of the spike frequency was achieved faster in aged animals than in adult ones. In experiments on cultured neurons PCs were identified by the expression of calbindin as the PC-specific marker. Registration of transmembrane currents in cerebellar neurons revealed the direct action of NS309 and CyPPA on the SK channels of PC consisted in the enhancement of outward potassium currents and action potential after-hyperpolarization. Thus, SK channel activators can compensate for age-related changes of the autorhythmic functions of the cerebellum.
Keywords: Purkinje cells; SK channels; ageing; cerebellum.