Frequency-Dependent Amplification of Stretch-Evoked Excitatory Input in Spinal Motoneurons

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Voltage-dependent calcium and sodium channels mediating persistent inward currents (PICs) amplify the effects of synaptic inputs on the membrane potential and firing rate of motoneurons. CaPIC channels are thought to be relatively slow, whereas the NaPIC channels have fast kinetics. These different characteristics influence how synaptic inputs with different frequency content are amplified; the slow kinetics of Ca channels suggest that they can only contribute to amplification of low frequency inputs (<5 Hz). To characterize frequency-dependent amplification of excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs), we measured the averaged stretch-evoked EPSPs in cat medial gastrocnemius motoneurons in decerebrate cats at different subthreshold levels of membrane potential. EPSPs were produced by muscle spindle afferents activated by stretching the homonymous and synergist muscles at frequencies of 5–50 Hz. We adjusted the stretch amplitudes at different frequencies to produce approximately the same peak-to-peak EPSP amplitude and quantified the amount of amplification by expressing the EPSP integral at different levels of depolarization as a percentage of that measured with the membrane hyperpolarized. Amplification was observed at all stretch frequencies but generally decreased with increasing stretch frequency. However, in many cells the amount of amplification was greater at 10 Hz than at 5 Hz. Fast amplification was generally reduced or absent when the lidocaine derivative QX-314 was included in the electrode solution, supporting a strong contribution from Na channels. These results suggest that NaPICs can combine with CaPICs to enhance motoneuron responses to modulations of synaptic drive over a physiologically significant range of frequencies.



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