Cerebellar neurones show complex and differentiated mechanisms of action potential generation that have been proposed to depend on peculiar properties of their voltage-dependent Na+ currents. In this study we analysed voltage-dependent Na+ currents of rat cerebellar granule cells (GCs) by performing whole-cell, patch-clamp experiments in acute rat cerebellar slices. A transient Na+ current (INaT) was always present and had the properties of a typical fast-activating/inactivating Na+ current. In addition to INaT, robust persistent (INaP) and resurgent (INaR) Na+ currents were observed. INaP peaked at ∼ - 40 mV, showed half-maximal activation at ∼ - 55 mV, and its maximal amplitude was about 1.5% of that of INaT. INaR was elicited by repolarizing pulses applied following step depolarizations able to activate/inactivate INaT, and showed voltage- and time-dependent activation and voltage-dependent decay kinetics. The conductance underlying INaR showed a bell-shaped voltage dependence, with peak at - 35 mV. A significant correlation was found between GC INaR and INaT peak amplitudes; however, GCs expressing INaT of similar size showed marked variability in terms of INaR amplitude, and in a fraction of cells INaR was undetectable. INaT, INaP and INaR could be accounted for by a 13-state kinetic scheme comprising closed, open, inactivated and blocked states. Current-clamp experiments carried out to identify possible functional correlates of INaP and/or INaR revealed that in GCs single action potentials were followed by depolarizing afterpotentials (DAPs). In a majority of cells, DAPs showed properties consistent with INaR playing a role in their generation. Computer modelling showed that INaR promotes DAP generation and enhances high-frequency firing, whereas INaP boosts near-threshold firing activity. Our findings suggest that special properties of voltage-dependent Na+ currents provides GCs with mechanisms suitable for shaping activity patterns, with potentially important consequences for cerebellar information transfer and computation.
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