Slow sodium conductances of dorsal root ganglion neurons: intraneuronal homogeneity and interneuronal heterogeneity

J Neurophysiol. 1994 Dec;72(6):2796-815. doi: 10.1152/jn.1994.72.6.2796.


1. Voltage-dependent Na+ conductances were studied in small (18-25 microns diam) adult rat dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons with the use of the whole cell patch-clamp technique. Na+ currents were also recorded from larger (44-50 microns diam) neurons and compared with those of the small neurons. 2. The predominant Na+ conductance in the small neurons was selective over tetramethylammonium by at least 10-fold and was resistant to 1 microM external tetrodotoxin (TTX). Na+ conductances in many larger DRG neurons were kinetically faster and, in contrast, were blocked by 1 microM TTX. 3. The Na+ conductance in the small neurons was kinetically slow. Activation half-times were voltage dependent and ranged from 2 ms at -20 mV to 0.7 ms at +50 mV. Approximately 50% of the activation half-time was comprised of an initial delay. Inactivation half-times were voltage dependent and ranged from 11 ms at -20 mV to 2 ms at +50 mV. 4. Peak slow Na+ conductances were near maximal with conditioning potentials negative to -120 mV and were significantly reduced or eliminated with conditioning potentials positive to -40 mV. The slow Na+ conductance increased gradually with test potentials extending from -40 to +40 mV. In some cells the conductance could be saturated at +10 mV. Peak conductance/voltage relationships, although stable in a given neuron, revealed marked variability among neurons, spanning > 20- and 50-mV domains for steady-state activation and inactivation (current availability), respectively. 5. Kinetics remained stable within a given neuron over the course of an experiment. However, considerable kinetic variation was exhibited from neuron to neuron, such that the half-times of activation and of inactivation spanned an order of magnitude. In all small neurons studied there appeared to be a singular kinetic component of the current, based on sensitivity to the conditioning potential, voltage dependence of activation, and inactivation half-time. 6. Unique closing properties were exhibited by Na+ channels of the small neurons. Hyperpolarization following a depolarization-induced fully inactivated state resulted in tail currents that appeared to be the consequence of reactivation of the slow Na+ conductance. Tail currents recorded at various times during a fixed level of depolarization revealed that the underlying channels accumulated into a volatile inactivated state over the course of the preceding depolarization.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cations, Divalent / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cesium / pharmacology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / cytology
  • Ganglia, Spinal / drug effects
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sodium Channels / drug effects
  • Sodium Channels / physiology*
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Cations, Divalent
  • Sodium Channels
  • Cesium
  • Tetrodotoxin