Conventional intracellular recordings were made from 26 lateral spinal nucleus (LSN) neurons in slices of L6-S1 spinal cord from 10- to 15-day- old rats. At rest, LSN neurons did not fire spontaneous action potentials. With injection of a positive current pulse, action potentials had an amplitude of 72 ± 7 (SD) mV and duration at half-peak height of 0.75 ± 0.22 ms. Action potentials were followed by an afterpotential. Most LSN neurons (13/17) exhibited only an afterhyperpolarization (AHP); four neurons exhibited both a fast and a slow AHP separated by an afterdepolarization (ADP). For LSN neurons that exhibited only an AHP, a slow ADP could be identified during bath application of apamin (100 nM). Four of 11 LSN neurons showed a postinhibitory rebound (PIR). Two types of PIR were noted, one with high threshold and low amplitude and the other with low threshold and high amplitude. The PIR with high amplitude was partially blocked in 0 mM Ca2+/high Mg2+ (10 mM) recording solution. Repetitive firing properties were examined in 17 LSN neurons. On the basis of the ratio of the slopes between initial instantaneous firing and steady-state firing frequencies, neurons with low spike frequency adaptation (SFA, 8/17) and high SFA (4/17) were identified. In addition, 2/17 LSN neurons exhibited biphasic repetitive firing patterns, which were composed of a fast SFA, delayed excitation, and low SFA; another two neurons showed only delayed excitation. Plateau potentials also were found in two LSN neurons. Dorsal root stimulation revealed that most LSN neurons (12/13) had polysynaptic potentials (PSP); only one neuron exhibited a monosynaptic PSP. Electrical stimulation of the dorsal root evoked prolonged discharges in low SFA neurons and a short discharge in high SFA neurons. Intrinsic properties were modulated by bath application of substance P (SP). Membrane potentials were depolarized in all eight LSN neurons tested, and membrane resistance was either increased (n = 3) or decreased (n = 2). Both instantaneous firing and steady-state firing were facilitated by SP. In addition, oscillation of membrane potentials were induced in three LSN neurons. These results demonstrate that LSN neurons exhibit a variety of intrinsic properties, which may significantly contribute to sensory processing, including nociceptive processing.
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