SK and Kv4 Channels Limit Spike Timing Perturbations in Pacemaking Dopamine Neurons

eNeuro. 2023 Apr 10;10(4):ENEURO.0445-22.2023. doi: 10.1523/ENEURO.0445-22.2023. Print 2023 Apr.


Midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons are among the best characterized pacemaker neurons, having intrinsic, rhythmic firing activity even in the absence of synaptic input. However, the mechanisms of DA neuron pacemaking have not been systematically related to how these cells respond to synaptic input. The input-output properties of pacemaking neurons can be characterized by the phase-resetting curve (PRC), which describes the sensitivity of interspike interval (ISI) length to inputs arriving at different phases of the firing cycle. Here we determined PRCs of putative DA neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta in brain slices from male and female mice using gramicidin-perforated current-clamp recordings with electrical noise stimuli applied through the patch pipette. On average, and compared with nearby putative GABA neurons, DA neurons showed a low, nearly constant level of sensitivity across most of the ISI, but individual cells had PRCs showing relatively greater sensitivity at early or late phases. Pharmacological experiments showed that DA neuron PRCs are shaped by small-conductance calcium-activated potassium and Kv4 channels, which limit input sensitivity across early and late phases of the ISI. Our results establish the PRC as a tractable experimental measurement of individual DA neuron input-output relationships and identify two of the major ionic conductances that limit perturbations to rhythmic firing. These findings have applications in modeling and for identifying biophysical changes in response to disease or environmental manipulations.

Keywords: Kv4; PRC; SK; dopamine; firing; substantia nigra.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dopaminergic Neurons* / physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mesencephalon*
  • Mice
  • Pars Compacta