Dendritic excitability regulates how neurons integrate synaptic inputs and thereby influences neuronal output. As active dendritic events are associated with significant calcium influx they are likely to be modulated by calcium-dependent processes, such as calcium-activated potassium channels. Here we investigate the impact of small conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (SK channels) on dendritic excitability in male and female rat cortical pyramidal neurons in vitro and in vivo. Using local applications of the SK channel antagonist apamin in vitro, we show that blocking somatic SK channels enhances action potential output, whereas blocking dendritic SK channels paradoxically reduces the generation of dendritic calcium spikes and associated somatic burst firing. Opposite effects were observed using the SK channel enhancer NS309. The effect of apamin on dendritic SK channels was occluded when R-type calcium channels were blocked, indicating that the inhibitory impact of apamin on dendritic calcium spikes involved R-type calcium channels. Comparable effects were observed in vivo. Intracellular application of apamin via the somatic whole-cell recording pipette reduced the medium afterhyperpolarization and increased action potential output during UP states. In contrast, extracellular application of apamin to the cortical surface to block dendritic SK channels shifted the distribution of action potentials within UP states from an initial burst to a more distributed firing pattern, while having no impact on overall action potential firing frequency or UP and DOWN states. These data indicate that somatic and dendritic SK channels have opposite effects on neuronal excitability, with dendritic SK channels counter-intuitively promoting rather than suppressing neuronal output.
- Pyramidal neuron
- SK channel