Effects of potassium ions on action potential conduction in A- and C-fibers of rat spinal nerves

J Dent Res. 1995 Feb;74(2):634-41. doi: 10.1177/00220345950740020301.


Potassium ions in dentifrices for treating 'hypersensitive' dentin are believed to act directly on intradental nerves by raising extracellular potassium ion concentration ([K+]o) sufficiently to prevent action potential generation by axonal accommodation. However, the [K+]o necessary to block nerve conduction is not precisely known, nor is it certain that K+ can diffuse from a dentifrice in sufficient amounts to inactivate intradental nerves. To establish more accurately the [K+]o required to block nerve conduction under controlled conditions, we studied the effects of increased [K+]o on the sizes of compound action potentials (CAP) recorded from rat spinal nerves in vitro. [K+]o was increased by the addition of either KCl or KNO3 to Krebs' solutions applied to the central portion of the nerves. CAP attenuation increased in a dose-dependent manner as [K+]o was raised in the 8 to 64 mmol/L range, and complete block was generally produced with solutions containing at least 32 mmol/L K+. CAP attenuation was reversible, and recovery times increased with increasing [K+]o. The effects of KCl and KNO3 solutions were the same for all [K+]o tested. Half-maximal (50%) reduction in the A beta-fiber component of the CAP occurred with 17.4 mmol/L K+, and with 17.8 mmol/L and 19.3 mmol/L K+, respectively, for the A delta- and C-fiber components. Control experiments with glucose and choline chloride confirmed that the conduction block observed with increased [K+]o was not due to increased solution osmolarity or ionic strength.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Axons / drug effects*
  • Dentin Sensitivity / drug therapy
  • Dentin Sensitivity / physiopathology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Male
  • Neural Conduction / drug effects*
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Potassium / administration & dosage
  • Potassium / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spinal Nerve Roots / drug effects
  • Statistics, Nonparametric


  • Potassium