In most vertebrates, anoxia drastically reduces the production of the essential adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to power its many necessary functions, and consequently, cell death occurs within minutes. However, some vertebrates, such as the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii), have evolved the ability to survive months without oxygen by simultaneously decreasing ATP supply and demand, surviving the anoxic period without any apparent cellular damage. The impact of anoxia on the metabolic function of painted turtles has received a lot of attention. Still, the impact of low temperature has received less attention and the interactive effect of anoxia and temperature even less. In the present study, we investigated the interactive impacts of reduced temperature and severe hypoxia on the electrophysiological properties of pyramidal neurons in painted turtle cerebral cortex. Our results show that an acute reduction in temperature from 20 to 5°C decreases membrane potential, action potential width and amplitude, and whole-cell conductance. Importantly, acute exposure to 5°C considerably slows membrane repolarization by voltage-gated K+ channels. Exposing pyramidal cells to severe hypoxia in addition to an acute temperature change slightly depolarized membrane potential but did not alter action potential amplitude or width and whole-cell conductance. These results suggest that acclimation to low temperatures, preceding severe environmental hypoxia, induces cellular responses in pyramidal neurons that facilitate survival under low oxygen concentration. In particular, our results show that temperature acclimation invokes a change in voltage-gated K+ channel kinetics that overcomes the acute inhibition of the channel.

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