University of Oulu

Voltage-gated K+ channels in Drosophila photoreceptors : biophysical study of neural coding

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Author: Vähäsöyrinki, Mikko1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Sciences, Division of Biophysics
2University of Oulu, Biocenter Oulu
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2004
Publish Date: 2004-12-01
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in Oulunsali (Auditorium L5), Linnanmaa, on December 11th, 2004, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Kristian Donner
Professor Doekele Stavenga


The activity of neurons is critically dependent upon the suite of voltage-dependent ion channels expressed in their membranes. In particular, voltage-gated K+ channels are extremely diverse in their function, contributing to the regulation of distinct aspects of neuronal activity by shaping the voltage responses.

In this study the role of K+ channels in neural coding is investigated in Drosophila photoreceptors by using biophysical models with parameters derived from the electrophysiological experiments. Due to their biophysical properties, the Shaker channels attenuate the fast transients and amplify the slower signal components, enabling photoreceptors to use their voltage range more effectively. Slow delayed rectifier channels, shown to be encoded by the Shab gene, activate at high light intensities, thereby attenuating the light-induced depolarization and preventing response saturation. Activation of Shab channels also reduces the membrane time constant making it possible to encode faster events.

Interactions between the voltage-gated K+ channels and the currents generated by the light induced conductance (LIC) were investigated during naturalistic stimulation in wild type and Shaker mutant photoreceptors. It is shown that in addition to eliminating the Shaker current, the mutation increased the Shab current and affected the current flowing through the LIC. Part of these changes could be attributed to direct feedback from the Shaker channels via the membrane potential. However, it is suggested that also other changes may occur in the LIC due to mutation in K+ channels, possibly during photoreceptor development.

Comparison of the Shaker and Shab mutant photoreceptors with the wild type revealed that a concurrent decrease in the steady-state input resistance followed from deletion of the voltage-gated K+ channels. This allowed partial compensation of the compression and saturation caused by the loss of Shaker channels and it maintained the characteristics of the light-voltage relationship in Shab mutant photoreceptors. However, wild type properties were not fully restored in either mutant. Indeed, decreased input resistance results in reduced efficiency of neural processing, assessed by the metabolic cost of information.

Results of this study demonstrate the importance of the voltage-gated K+ channels for neural coding precision and highlight the robustness of neuronal information processing gained through regulation of the electrical properties.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7599-3
ISBN Print: 951-42-7598-5
Issue: 426
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2004. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.