Gonzalez Sabater V, Rigby M, Burrone J (2021) Voltage-gated potassium channels ensure action potential shape fidelity in distal axons. J Neurosci

The initiation and propagation of the action potential (AP) along an axon allows neurons to convey information rapidly and across distant sites. Although AP properties have typically been characterised at the soma and proximal axon, the propagation of APs towards distal axonal domains of mammalian CNS neurons remains limited. We used Genetically-Encoded Voltage Indicators (GEVIs) to image APs with sub-millisecond temporal resolution simultaneously at different locations along the long axons of dissociated hippocampal neurons from rat embryos of either sex. We found that APs became sharper and showed remarkable fidelity as they traveled towards distal axons, even during a high frequency train. Blocking voltage-gated potassium channels (Kv) with 4-AP resulted in an increase in AP width in all compartments, which was stronger at distal locations and exacerbated during AP trains. We conclude that the higher levels of Kv channel activity in distal axons serves to sustain AP fidelity, conveying a reliable digital signal to presynaptic boutons.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTThe AP represents the electrical signal carried along axons towards distant presynaptic boutons where it culminates in the release of neurotransmitter. The non-linearities involved in this process are such that small changes in AP shape can result in large changes in neurotransmitter release. Since axons are remarkably long structures, any distortions that APs suffer along the way have the potential to translate into a significant modulation of synaptic transmission, particularly in distal domains. To avoid these issues, distal axons have ensured that signals are kept remarkably constant and insensitive to modulation during a train, despite the long distances travelled. Here, we uncover the mechanisms that allow distal axonal domains to provide a reliable and faithful digital signal to presynaptic terminals.

Pubmed: 34001627