The effects of 4-aminopyridine and tetraethylammonium ions on normal and demyelinated mammalian nerve fibres

J Physiol. 1981:313:301-15. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1981.sp013666.


1. 4-Aminopyridine (4AP) and tetraethylammonium ions (TEA), which block voltage-dependent potassium channels in other nerve membranes, have been used to study nerve conduction in fibres of normal rat spinal roots and those demyelinated with diphtheria toxin. The pharmacological actions have been compared with those of temperature. 2. Both TEA and 4AP increased the amplitude and duration of the monophasically recorded compound action potentials of non-myelinated fibres in normal rat dorsal roots. Enhancement of the action potential amplitude by 4AP was maximal near 1 mM, and was not readily reversed by washing. At concentrations up to 50 mM the action of TEA was weaker and reversible. 3. In normal dorsal and ventral roots TEA (20 mM) and 4AP (5 mM) had only a mildly depressant action on the compound action potentials of myelinated fibres. Whereas the slight reduction in peak amplitude and increase in width was also found in a single fibres treated with TEA, none was discerned in single fibres exposed to 4AP over a wide temperature range. 4. It is concluded that voltage-dependent potassium channels occur in significant numbers in mammalian non-myelinated fibres, but not at nodes of Ranvier. 5. Spinal roots previously treated with diphtheria toxin to cause demyelination were studied by longitudinal current analysis. Fibres affected by diphtheria toxin had a late phase of outward current, either restricted to nodes or, in the case of continuous conduction, distributed along internodes, and this outward current was specifically blocked by 4AP. 6. Both 4AP and TEA increased the temperature at which conduction block occurred in most single demyelinated fibres, so that in some cases fibres blocked at physiological temperatures were enabled to conduct. 4AP was more potent than TEA, but less consistent in its effect. 7. It is concluded that potassium channels are present at widened nodes and in internodal axolemma exposed by demyelination. Their presence enables TEA and 4AP to overcome conduction block in some demyelinated nerve fibres.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 4-Aminopyridine
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Aminopyridines / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Diphtheria Toxin / pharmacology
  • Hot Temperature
  • Manganese / pharmacology
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / drug effects*
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / physiology
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / drug effects
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / physiology
  • Tetraethylammonium Compounds / pharmacology*


  • Aminopyridines
  • Diphtheria Toxin
  • Neuromuscular Depolarizing Agents
  • Tetraethylammonium Compounds
  • Manganese
  • 4-Aminopyridine