Relations among passive electrical properties of lumbar alpha-motoneurones of the cat

J Physiol. 1984 Nov;356:401-31. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1984.sp015473.


The relations among passive membrane properties have been examined in cat motoneurones utilizing exclusively electrophysiological techniques. A significant relation was found to exist between the input resistance and the membrane time constant. The estimated electrotonic length showed no evident tendency to vary with input resistance but did show a tendency to decrease with increasing time constant. Detailed analysis of this trend suggests, however, that a variation in dendritic geometry is likely to exist among cat motoneurones, such that the dendritic trees of motoneurones projecting to fast-twitch muscle units are relatively more expansive than those of motoneurones projecting to slow-twitch units. Utilizing an expression derived from the Rall neurone model, the total capacitance of the equivalent cylinder corresponding to a motoneurone has been estimated. With the assumption of a constant and uniform specific capacitance of 1 mu F/cm2, the resulting values have been used as estimates of cell surface area. These estimates agree well with morphologically obtained measurements from cat motoneurones reported by others. Both membrane time constant (and thus likely specific membrane resistivity) and electrotonic length showed little tendency to vary with surface area. However, after-hyperpolarization (a.h.p.) duration showed some tendency to vary such that cells with brief a.h.p. duration were, on average, larger than those with longer a.h.p. durations. Apart from motoneurones with the lowest values, axonal conduction velocity was only weakly related to variations in estimated surface area. Input resistance and membrane time constant were found to vary systematically with the a.h.p. duration. Analysis suggested that the major part of the increase in input resistance with a.h.p. duration was related to an increase in membrane resistivity and a variation in dendritic geometry rather than to differences in surface area among the motoneurones. The possible effects of imperfect electrode seals have been considered. According to an analysis of a passive membrane model, soma leaks caused by impalement injury will result in underestimates of input resistance and time constant and over-estimates of electrotonic length and total capacitance. Assuming a non-injured resting potential of -80 mV, a comparison of membrane potentials predicted by various relative leaks (leak conductance/input conductance) with those actually observed suggests that the magnitude of these errors in the present material will not unduly affect the presented results.+4

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cats
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Microelectrodes
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Time Factors