Membrane Voltage Is a Direct Feedback Signal That Influences Correlated Ion Channel Expression in Neurons.


University of Missouri, Columbia, Division of Biological Sciences, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


The number and type of ion channels present in the membrane determines the electrophysiological function of every neuron. In many species, stereotyped output of neurons often persists for years [1], and ion channel dysregulation can change these properties to cause severe neurological disorders [2-4]. Thus, a fundamental question is how do neurons coordinate channel expression to uphold their firing patterns over long timescales [1, 5]? One major hypothesis purports that neurons homeostatically regulate their ongoing activity through mechanisms that link membrane voltage to expression relationships among ion channels [6-10]. However, experimentally establishing this feedback loop for the control of expression relationships has been a challenge: manipulations that aim to test for voltage feedback invariably disrupt trophic signaling from synaptic transmission and neuromodulation in addition to activity [9, 11, 12]. Further, neuronal activity often relies critically on these chemical mediators, obscuring the contribution of voltage activity of the membrane per se in forming the channel relationships that determine neuronal output [6, 13]. To resolve this, we isolated an identifiable neuron in crustaceans and then either kept this neuron silent or used a long-term voltage clamp protocol to artificially maintain activity. We found that physiological voltage activity-independent of all known forms of synaptic and neuromodulatory feedback-maintains most channel mRNA relationships, while metabotropic influences may play a relatively smaller role. Thus, ion channel relationships likely needed to maintain neuronal identity are actively and continually regulated at least in part at the level of channel mRNAs through feedback by membrane voltage.

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