Nitric oxide (NO) is an unconventional membrane-permeable messenger molecule that has been shown to play various roles in the nervous system. How NO modulates ion channels to affect neuronal functions is not well understood. In gastropods, NO has been implicated in regulating the feeding motor program. The buccal motoneuron, B19, of the freshwater pond snail Helisoma trivolvis is active during the hyper-retraction phase of the feeding motor program and is located in the vicinity of NO-producing neurons in the buccal ganglion. Here, we asked whether B19 neurons might serve as direct targets of NO signaling. Previous work established NO as a key regulator of growth cone motility and neuronal excitability in another buccal neuron involved in feeding, the B5 neuron. This raised the question whether NO might modulate the electrical activity and neuronal excitability of B19 neurons as well, and if so whether NO acted on the same or a different set of ion channels in both neurons. To study specific responses of NO on B19 neurons and to eliminate indirect effects contributed by other cells, the majority of experiments were performed on single cultured B19 neurons. Addition of NO donors caused a prolonged depolarization of the membrane potential and an increase in neuronal excitability. The effects of NO could mainly be attributed to the inhibition of two types of calcium-activated potassium channels, apaminsensitive and iberiotoxin-sensitive potassium channels. NO was found to also cause a depolarization in B19 neurons in situ, but only after NO synthase activity in buccal ganglia had been blocked. The results suggest that NO acts as a critical modulator of neuronal excitability in B19 neurons, and that calcium-activated potassium channels may serve as a common target of NO in neurons.
Zhong LR, Estes S, Artinian L, Rehder V (2013) Nitric Oxide Regulates Neuronal Activity via Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78727. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0078727
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