Action potentials in nonmyelinated axons are considered to contribute substantially to activity-dependent brain metabolism. Here we show that fast Na+ current decay and delayed K+ current onset during action potentials in nonmyelinated mossy fibers of the rat hippocampus minimize the overlap of their respective ion fluxes. This results in total Na+ influx and associated energy demand per action potential of only 1.3 times the theoretical minimum, in contrast to the factor of 4 used in previous energy budget calculations for neural activity. Analysis of ionic conductance parameters revealed that the properties of Na+ and K+ channels are matched to make axonal action potentials energy-efficient, minimizing their contribution to activity-dependent metabolism.
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