1. The role of large-conductance Ca2+-dependent K+ channels (BK-channels; also known as maxi-K- or slo-channels) in spike broadening during repetitive firing was studied in CA1 pyramidal cells, using sharp electrode intracellular recordings in rat hippocampal slices, and computer modelling. 2. Trains of action potentials elicited by depolarizing current pulses showed a progressive, frequency-dependent spike broadening, reflecting a reduced rate of repolarization. During a 50 ms long 5 spike train, the spike duration increased by 63.6 +/- 3.4 % from the 1st to the 3rd spike. The amplitude of the fast after-hyperpolarization (fAHP) also rapidly declined during each train. 3. Suppression of BK-channel activity with (a) the selective BK-channel blocker iberiotoxin (IbTX, 60 nM), (b) the non-peptidergic BK-channel blocker paxilline (2-10 microM), or (c) calcium-free medium, broadened the 1st spike to a similar degree ( approximately 60 %). BK-channel suppression also caused a similar change in spike waveform as observed during repetitive firing, and eliminated (occluded) most of the spike broadening during repetitive firing. 4. Computer simulations using a reduced compartmental model with transient BK-channel current and 10 other active ionic currents, produced an activity-dependent spike broadening that was strongly reduced when the BK-channel inactivation mechanism was removed. 5. These results, which are supported by recent voltage-clamp data, strongly suggest that in CA1 pyramidal cells, fast inactivation of a transient BK-channel current (ICT), substantially contributes to frequency-dependent spike broadening during repetitive firing.
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