Chapter 2: Ionic Mechanisms and Action Potentials

John H. Byrne, Ph.D., Department of Neurobiology and also Anatomy, McGovern Medical School Revised 05 January 2021


2.1 Ionic Mechanisms of Action Potentials

Voltage-Dependent Conductances

Na+ is instrumental for the activity potential in nerve cells. As presented in Figure 2.1, action potentials are consistently initiated as the extracellular concentration of Na+ is modified. As the concentration of sodium in the extracellular solution is reduced, the activity potentials come to be smaller.

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Figure 2.2 shows the directly line predicted by the Nernst equation (assuming the membrane was specifically permeable to Na+). Tbelow is an excellent fit between the data and also the worths predicted by a membrane that is solely permeable to Na+. The experiment offers speculative assistance to the concept that at the optimal of the activity potential, the membrane becomes extremely permeable to sodium.

However before, there are some deviations in between what is measured and also what is predicted by the Nernst equation. Why? One reason for the deviation is the continued K+ permecapacity. If tright here is ongoing K+ permeability, the membrane potential will never reach its best value (the sodium equilibrium potential) bereason the diffusion of K+ ions has a tendency to make the cell negative. This allude deserve to be construed via the assist of the GHK equation.

Figure 2.3

An activity potential is bounded by an area bordered on one excessive by the K+ equilibrium potential (-75 mV) and also on the various other too much by the Na+ equilibrium potential (+55 mV). The resting potential is -60 mV. Keep in mind that the relaxing potential is not equal to the K+ equilibrium potential bereason, as discussed formerly, there is a little resting Na+ permecapability that provides the cell slightly more positive than EK. In principle, any type of suggest along the trajectory of action potential have the right to be derived simply by differing alpha in the GHK equation. If alpha is exceptionally huge, the Na+ terms dominate, and according to the GHK equation, the membrane potential will certainly move in the direction of the Na+ equilibrium potential. The top of the action potentials approaches yet does not fairly reach ENa, because the membrane retains its permeability to K+.

How is it possible for a cell to initially have actually a relaxing potential of -60 mV and also then, in response to some stimulus (a brief transient depolarization which reaches threshold), readjust in much less than one millisecond to having actually a potential of around +40 mV? In the 1950"s, Hodgkin and Huxley, two British neurobiologists, gave a hypothesis for this shift. They suggested that the properties of some Na+ networks in nerve cells (and muscle cells) were distinct in that these networks were generally closed yet might be opened by a depolarization. This straightforward hypothesis of voltage-dependent Na+ channels goes a long means towards explaining the initiation of the action potential. Suppose a tiny depolarization causes some of the Na+ channels to open. The key suggest is that the increase in Na+ permeability would create a better depolarization, which will result in an also higher variety of Na+ channels opening and also the membrane potential coming to be even more depolarized. Once some instrumental level is reached a positive feedago or regenerative cycle will be initiated, causing the membrane potential to depolarize quickly from -60 mV to a value approaching the Na+ equilibrium potential.

In order to test the Na+ hypothesis for the initiation of the activity potential, it is vital to stabilize the membrane potential at a number of different levels and also measure the permecapability at those potentials. An electronic gadget well-known as a voltage-clamp amplifier deserve to "clamp" or stabilize the membrane potential to any kind of desired level and also meacertain the resultant existing required for that stabilization. The amount of current vital to stabilize the potential is proportional to the permecapability. Hodgkin and Huxley clamped the membrane potential to miscellaneous levels and also measured the alters in Na+ conductances (an electric term for permeability, which for the existing conversation have the right to be supplied interchangeably). The more the cell is depolarized, the greater is the Na+ conductance. Hence, the experiment gave assistance for the visibility of voltage-dependent Na+ channels.

2.2 Na+ Inactivation

Figure 2.4 also shows an essential home of the voltage-dependent Na+ networks. Note that the permeability increases rapidly and then, despite the that the membrane potential is clamped, the permecapacity decays ago to its initial level. This phenomenon is dubbed inactivation. The Na+ networks start to close, also in the ongoing existence of the depolarization. Inactivation contributes to the repolarization of the action potential. However before, inactivation is not enough by itself to account completely for the repolarization.

2.3 Voltage-Dependent K+ Conductance

In enhancement to voltage-dependent transforms in Na+ permeability, tright here are voltage-dependent transforms in K+ permeability. These alters deserve to be measured via the voltage-clamp approach as well. The number displayed to above indicates the transforms in K+ conductance as well as the Na+ conductance. Tbelow are two necessary points.

First, simply as tright here are channels in the membrane that are permeable to Na+ that are usually closed yet then open in response to a voltage, there are also networks in the membrane that are selectively permeable to K+. These K+ channels are usually closed, yet open up in response to depolarization.

Second, a major difference between the transforms in the K+ channels and also the alters in the Na+ networks is that the K+ channels are slower to activate or open. (Some K+ channels likewise do not inactivate.) Keep in mind that the return of the conductance at the finish of the pulse is not the procedure of inactivation. With the removal of the pulse, the set off channels are deactivated.

2.4 Sequence of Conductance Changes Underlying the Nerve Action Potential

Some initial depolarization (e.g., a synaptic potential) will begin to open the Na+ channels. The boost in the Na+ influx leads to a better depolarization.

A positive feedback cycle swiftly moves the membrane potential towards its top value, which is close but not equal to the Na+ equilibrium potential. Two processes which add to repolarization at the optimal of the activity potential are then involved. First, the Na+ conductance starts to decline because of inactivation. As the Na+ conductance decreases, one more feedback cycle is initiated, yet this one is a downward cycle. Sodium conductance decreases, the membrane potential starts to repolarize, and also the Na+ networks that are open and also not yet inset off are detriggered and also close. 2nd, the K+ conductance boosts. At first, tbelow is extremely little bit change in the K+ conductance because these networks are slow to open up, however by the optimal of the activity potential, the K+ conductance begins to increase substantially and a second force contributes to repolarization. As the outcome of these 2 forces, the membrane potential rapidly returns to the resting potential. At the moment it reaches -60 mV, the Na+ conductance has actually returned to its initial value. Nonetheless, the membrane potential becomes even more negative (the undershoot or the hyperpolarizing afterpotential).

The vital to understanding the hyperpolarizing afterpotential is in the slowness of the K+ channels. Just as the K+ networks are sluggish to open (activate), they are additionally sluggish to cshed (deactivate). Once the membrane potential starts to repolarize, the K+ networks begin to close bereason they feeling the voltage. However before, even though the membrane potential has actually went back to -60 mV, some of the voltage-dependent K+ networks reprimary open up. Therefore, the membrane potential will be more negative than it was initially. Ultimately, these K+ networks cshed, and the membrane potential returns to -60 mV.

Why does the cell go via these elaborate mechanisms to generate an activity potential through a brief duration? Recall just how indevelopment is coded in the nervous system. If the activity potential was about one msec in duration, the frequency of action potentials could change from once a 2nd to a thousand a 2nd. Therefore, short action potentials provide the nerve cell through the potential for a huge dynamic selection of signaling.

2.5 Pharmacology of the Voltage-Dependent Membrane Channels


Some chemical agents have the right to selectively block voltage-dependent membrane networks. Tetrodotoxin (TTX), which comes from the Japanese puffer fish, blocks the voltage-dependent transforms in Na+ permecapability, yet has no effect on the voltage-dependent changes in K+ permecapacity. This monitoring suggests that the Na+ and K+ networks are unique; one of these have the right to be selectively blocked and not influence the various other. Anvarious other agent, tetraethylammonium (TEA), has actually no result on the voltage-dependent changes in Na+ permeability, yet it entirely abolishes the voltage-dependent alters in K+ permeability.

Use these two agents (TTX and TEA) to test your expertise of the ionic mechanisms of the action potential. What result would treating an axon through TTX have on an activity potential? An action potential would certainly not take place bereason an activity potential in an axon cannot be initiated without voltage-dependent Na+ channels. How would TEA affect the activity potential? It would certainly be longer and also would not have an undershoot.

In the presence of TEA the initial phase of the action potential is the same, but note that it is much much longer and does not have actually an after-hyperpolarization. There is a repolarization phase, but currently the repolarization is due to the process of Na+ inactivation alone. Keep in mind that in the visibility of TEA, there is no readjust in the relaxing potential. The networks in the membrane that endow the cell via the resting potential are various from the ones that are opened by voltage. They are not blocked by TEA. TEA just affects the voltage-dependent transforms in K+ permeability.

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2.6 Pumps and Leaks

It is straightforward to receive the impression that tbelow is a "gush" of Na+ that comes right into the cell via each activity potential. Although, tright here is some influx of Na+, it is minute compared to the intracellular concentration of Na+. The influx is inenough to make any noticeable change in the intracellular concentration of Na+. Therefore, the Na+ equilibrium potential does not change during or after an action potential. For any type of individual activity potential, the amount of Na+ that comes into the cell and the amount of K+ that leaves are inconsiderable and have no result on the bulk concentrations. However, without some compensatory device, over the long-term (many type of spikes), Na+ influx and also K+ efflux would certainly start to alter the concentrations and the resultant Na+ and also K+ equilibrium potentials. The Na+-K+ pumps in nerve cells administer for the permanent maintenance of these concentration gradients. They store the intracellular concentrations of K+ high and the Na+ low, and also thereby preserve the Na+ equilibrium potential and the K+ equilibrium potential. The pumps are crucial for the permanent maintenance of the "batteries" so that relaxing potentials and action potentials can be sustained.

2.7 Types of Membrane Channels

So much, two fundamental classes of channels, voltage-dependent or voltage-gated networks and also voltage-independent networks, have actually been thought about. Voltage-dependent channels have the right to be further divided based on their permeation properties right into voltage-dependent Na+ networks and voltage-dependent K+ channels. There are likewise voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels (view chapter on Synaptic Transmission). Without a doubt, tbelow are multiple forms of Ca2+ channels and voltage-dependent K+ networks. Nevertheless, all these networks are conceptually comparable. They are membrane networks that are commonly closed and also as an outcome of changes in potential, the channel (pore) is opened up. The amino acid sequence of these networks is known in considerable information and also certain amino acid sequences have been pertained to certain aspects of channel feature (e.g., ion selectivity, voltage gating, inactivation). A 3rd major channel class, the transmitter-gated or ligand-gated channels, will certainly be described later on.

2.8 Channelopathies

Ion channel mutations have been established as a feasible cause of a large range of inherited disorders. Several disorders entailing muscle membrane excitcapacity have actually been connected with mutations in calcium, sodium and also chloride networks as well as acetylcholine receptors and have been labeled ‘channelopathies’. It is possible that movement disorders, epilepsy and also headache, and various other rare inherited diseases, could be connected to ion networks. The manifestations and also mechanisms of channelopathies affecting neurons are reregarded in Kullman, 2002. The visibility of channelopathies may carry out insights right into the array of cellular mechanisms associated with the misfunctioning of neuronal circuits.

2.9 Absolute and Relative Refractory Periods

The absolute refractory period is a period of time after the initiation of one activity potential when it is impossible to initiate a 2nd action potential no matter just how much the cell is depolarized. The family member refractory duration is a period after one activity potential is initiated as soon as it is feasible to initiate a 2nd action potential, yet only through a higher depolarization than was important to initiate the first. The loved one refractory period deserve to be construed at leastern in part by the hyperpolarizing afterpotential. Assume that an initial stimulus depolarized a cell from -60 mV to -45 mV in order to reach threshold and then think about transferring the very same 15-mV stimulus at some point throughout the after-hyperpolarization. The stimulus would certainly aget depolarize the cell but the depolarization would be listed below thresorganize and also inenough to cause an activity potential. If the stimulus was made bigger, yet, such that it again was qualified of depolarizing the cell to threshold (-45 mV), an action potential could be initiated.

The absolute refractory duration have the right to be defined by the dynamics of the process of Na+-inactivation, the attributes of which are portrayed in Figure 2.10. Here, two voltage clamp pulses are yielded. The initially pulse produces a voltage-dependent rise in the Na+ permecapacity which then undergoes the procedure of inactivation. If the 2 pulses are separated sufficiently in time, the second pulse produces a change in the Na+ conductance, which is similar to the first pulse. However, if the second pulse comes soon after the initially pulse, then the readjust in Na+ conductance developed by the second pulse is less than that created by the first. Certainly, if the second pulse occurs instantly after the first pulse, the second pulse produces no change in the Na+ conductance. As such, when the Na+ networks open and also spontaneously inactivate, it takes time (numerous msec) for them to recuperate from that inactivation. This process of recoincredibly from inactivation underlies the absolute refractory duration. Throughout an activity potential the Na+ channels open and then they end up being inactivated. As such, if a second stimulus is yielded shortly after the one that initiated the first spike, tbelow will be few Na+ networks accessible to be opened by the second stimulus because they have actually been intriggered by the first activity potential.