Synaptic transmission: ion concentration changes in the synaptic cleft

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing Papers of a Biological Character
D Attwell, J F Iles


Currents flowing through the postsynaptic membrane of an active synapse will tend to change the concentrations of ions in the synaptic cleft. Published experimental data are used to predict (a) the sodium and potassium concentration changes in the cleft at the frog neuromuscular junction, and (b) the sodium depletion in the cleft under a Ia synaptic bouton on a cat motoneuron. Significant concentration changes are predicted at both synapses. These changes will contribute to the time dependence of the observed current and will cause the reversal potential of the current to be time dependent. At the frog neuromuscular junction, the time course of the endplate current has been shown previously to depend on the magnitude of the current flowing (at a given potential). We attribute this to changes of the cleft ion concentration. The time dependent changes of the endplate current reversal potential that we predict for the neuromuscular junction are probably too small to be detected. This is because the effects of sodium depletion and potassium accumulation on the reversal potential almost cancel. We predict that near the reversal potential small currents of complex time course will remain, i.e. no true reversl potential exists. Such c...Continue Reading


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