Distinct distribution patterns of potassium channel sub-units in somato-dendritic compartments of neurons of the medial superior olive
Coincidence detector neurons of the medial superior olive (MSO) are sensitive to interaural time differences in the range of a few tens of microseconds. The biophysical basis for this remarkable acuity is a short integration time constant of the membrane, which is achieved by large low voltage-activated potassium and hyperpolarization-activated inward cation conductances. Additional temporal precision is thought to be achieved through a sub-cellular distribution of low voltage-activated potassium channel expression biased to the soma. To evaluate the contribution of potassium channels, we investigated the presence and sub-cellular distribution profile of seven potassium channel sub-units in adult MSO neurons of gerbils. We find that low- and high voltage-activated potassium channels are present with distinct sub-cellular distributions. Overall, low voltage-activated potassium channels appear to be biased to the soma while high voltage-activated potassium channels are more evenly distributed and show a clear expression at distal dendrites. Additionally, low voltage-activated potassium channel sub-units co-localize with glycinergic inputs while HCN1 channels co-localize more with high voltage-activated potassium channels. Functionally, high voltage-activated potassium currents are already active at low voltages near the resting potential. We describe a possible role of high voltage-activated potassium channels in modulating EPSPs in a computational model and contributing to setting the integration time window of coincidental inputs. Our data shows that MSO neurons express a large set of different potassium channels with distinct functional relevance.
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