Axonal initiation and active dendritic propagation of action potentials in substantia nigra neurons

Neuron. 1995 Sep;15(3):637-47. doi: 10.1016/0896-6273(95)90152-3.


The site of action potential initiation in substantia nigra neurons was investigated by using simultaneous somatic and dendritic whole-cell recording in brain slices. In many dopamine neurons, action potentials were observed first at the dendritic recording site. Anatomical reconstruction showed that in these neurons, the axon emerged from the dendrite from which the recording had been made. Action potentials showed little attention in the dendritic tree, which in dopamine neurons was shown to be due to recruitment of dendritic sodium channels and may be related to the dendritic release of dopamine. We conclude that in substantia nigra neurons, the site of action potential initiation, and thus the final site of synaptic integration, is in the axon. As the axon can originate from a dendrite, up to 240 microns away from the soma, synaptic input to the axon-bearing dendrite may be privileged with respect to its ability to influence action potential initiation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / ultrastructure*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Substantia Nigra / ultrastructure*
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism


  • Tetrodotoxin
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Dopamine