Sodium pumps are ubiquitously expressed membrane proteins that extrude three Na+ ions in exchange for two K+ ions, using ATP as an energy source. Recent studies have illuminated additional, dynamic roles for sodium pumps in regulating the excitability of neuronal networks in an activity-dependent fashion. We review their role in a novel form of short-term memory within rhythmic locomotor networks. The data we review derives mainly from recent studies on Xenopus tadpoles and neonatal mice. The role and underlying mechanisms of pump action broadly match previously published data from an invertebrate, the Drosophila larva. We therefore propose a highly conserved mechanism by which sodium pump activity increases following a bout of locomotion. This results in an ultraslow afterhyperpolarization (usAHP) of the membrane potential that lasts around 1 min, but which only occurs in around half the network neurons. This usAHP in turn alters network excitability so that network output is reduced in a locomotor interval-dependent manner. The pumps therefore confer on spinal locomotor networks a temporary memory trace of recent network performance.
Keywords: central pattern generator; locomotion; motor memory; sodium pumps; spinal cord.
Copyright © 2017 the American Physiological Society.