The electrical properties of olfactory receptor neurons, enzymatically dissociated from the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), were studied using the whole-cell patch-clamp technique. Six voltage-dependent ionic currents were isolated. Transient inward currents (0.1-1.7 nA) were observed in response to depolarizing voltage steps from a holding potential of -80 mV in all neurons examined. They activated between -70 and -50 mV and were blocked by addition of 1 microM tetrodotoxin (TTX) to the bath or by replacing Na+ in the bath with N-methyl-D-glucamine and were classified as Na+ currents. Sustained inward currents, observed in most neurons examined when Na+ inward currents were blocked with TTX and outward currents were blocked by replacing K+ in the pipette solution with Cs+ and by addition of 10 mM Ba2+ to the bath, activated between -40 and -30 mV, reached a peak at 0 mV, and were blocked by 5 microM nimodipine. These currents were classified as L-type Ca2+ currents. Large, slowly activating outward currents that were blocked by simultaneous replacement of K+ in the pipette with Cs+ and addition of Ba2+ to the bath were observed in all olfactory neurons examined. The outward K+ currents activated over approximately the same range as the Na+ currents (-60 to -50 mV), but the Na+ currents were larger at the normal resting potential of the neurons (-45 +/- 11 mV, mean +/- SD, n = 52). Four different types of K+ currents could be differentiated: a Ca(2+)-activated K+ current, a transient K+ current, a delayed rectifier K+ current, and an inward rectifier K+ current. Spontaneous action potentials of varying amplitude were sometimes observed in the cell-attached recording configuration. Action potentials were not observed in whole-cell recordings with normal internal solution (K+ = 100 mM) in the pipette, but frequently appeared when K+ was reduced to 85 mM. These observations suggest that the membrane potential and action potential amplitude of catfish olfactory neurons are significantly affected by the activity of single channels due to the high input resistance (6.6 +/- 5.2 G omega, n = 20) and low membrane capacitance (2.1 +/- 1.1 pF, n = 46) of the cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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