Hypoxia-induced spreading depression-like depolarization (hypoxic SD, or anoxic depolarization) is accompanied by the near-loss of membrane potential, severe reduction of membrane resistance, and influx of Na+, Ca2+, Cl- and water into neurons. The biophysical nature of these membrane changes is incompletely understood. In the present study we applied a pharmacological mixture (10 microM DNQX, 10 microM CPP, 1 microM TTX, and 2 mM Ni2+) to rat hippocampal tissue slices to inhibit major Na+ and Ca2+ inward currents. This inhibitory cocktail slightly depolarized CA1 pyramidal neurons and completely blocked all evoked potentials. In its presence severe hypoxia of up to 20 min duration failed to induce hypoxic SD and the accompanying intrinsic optical signal. Instead, only moderate, very slow negative shifts of the extracellular DC potential were observed. Following 10 min hypoxia and 1 hour wash-out of the inhibitors antidromic and orthodromic responses were still blocked but hypoxic SD with markedly delayed onset could be induced in most slices. In current-clamped CA1 pyramidal cells hypoxia induced a rapid, near-complete depolarization and decreased the input resistance by 89%. In the presence of the cocktail, however, hypoxia caused a gradual, partial depolarization, to about -40 mV; the membrane resistance decreased by only 37%. We conclude that simultaneous blockade of the known major Na+ and Ca2+ channels consistently prevents hypoxic SD. The hypothesis that SD initiation is the consequence of general loss of selective permeability or general membrane breakdown becomes unlikely. Instead, influx of Na+ and Ca2+ might play a crucial role in the generation of the rapid SD-like depolarization.
Copyright 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.