Divalent cations and the action potential of leech Retzius cells

Pflugers Arch. 1976 May 12;363(2):97-104. doi: 10.1007/BF01062276.


The effects of Sr, Ba, Mn, La and Co on the action potential of the leech Retzius cell were examined using intracellular recording techniques. A previous paper showed that these cells could fire Ca-dependent action potentials in Na-free solution provided TEA was present (Kleinhaus and Prichard, 1975). Under the same conditions Sr 1.5--20 mM was capable of substituting as a current carrier. Ba 2--25mM added to normal Ringer prolonged the duration and increased the amplitude of the action potential of the Retzius cell, and supported action potentials without requiring TEA in Na-free solutions. The overshoots of the Sr- and Ba-dependent action potentials varied with a slope of 40 mM and 75 mV, respectively per 10-fold change in divalent cation concentration. Mn and La selectively blocked that portion of the action potential resulting from an inward movement of Ca, Sr or Ba without affecting the Na-dependent depolarization. The actions of Ca 1 mM on Sr-dependent action potentials were compatible with reversible competitive antagonism. In conclusion the findings: 1. support the proposition that outward K current must be blocked in order for divalent cations to dominate the Retzius cell's behavior during excitation. 2. characterize the divalent cation conductance channel as pharmacologically distinct from the Na conductance channel in the Retzius cell and similar to those described in several other excitable membranes. 3. suggest that the current carrying divalent cations probably flow through the same channel.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active / drug effects
  • Cations, Divalent / metabolism
  • Cations, Divalent / pharmacology*
  • Leeches / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Tetraethylammonium Compounds / metabolism


  • Cations, Divalent
  • Tetraethylammonium Compounds