1. 1.

    Na+, K+ and Ca2+ currents have been measured by voltage-clamp in Retzius (R), anterior pagoda (AP) and sensory (pressure, touch and nociceptive) cells dissected from the central nervous system (CNS) of the leech. These cells maintain their distinctive membrane properties and action potential configurations in culture. Currents carried by the individual ions were analysed by the use of channel blockers and by their kinetics. Since the cells are isopotential they can be voltage-clamped effectively. 2. Depolarization, as expected, gave rise to an early inward Na+ current followed by a delayed outward K+ current. In Na+-free medium containing tetraethylammonium (TEA+), and in the presence of 4-aminopyridine (4-AP), inward Ca2+ currents were revealed that inactivated slowly and were blocked by Cd2+ and Mn2+. 3. Na+ and Ca2+ currents were similar in their characteristics in R. AP and sensory neurones. In contrast, K+ currents showed marked differences. Three principal K+ currents were identified. These differed in their time courses of activation and inactivation and in their responses to Ca2+ channel blockers. 4. K+ currents of the A-type (IA) activated and inactivated rapidly, were not affected by Ca2+ channel blockers and were eliminated by steady-state inactivation at holding potentials of −30 mV. A-type K+ currents were found in AP cells and as a minor component of the outward current in R cells. A Ca2+-activated K+ current (IC), that inactivated more slowly and was reduced by Ca2+ channel blockers, constituted the major outward current in R cells. The third K+ current resembled the delayed rectifier currents (IK1 and IK2) of squid axons with slow activation and inactivation kinetics. Such currents were found in R cells and in the sensory neurones (T, P and N). 5. The principal differences in membrane properties of identified leech neurones can be explained in terms of the numbers of Na+ channels and the distinctive kinetics of K+ channels in each type of cell.

This content is only available via PDF.