Rapidly inactivating and persistent sodium currents have been characterized in acutely dissociated neurons from the area of rostroventrolateral medulla that included the pre-Bötzinger Complex. As demonstrated in many studies in vitro, this area can generate endogenous rhythmic bursting activity. Experiments were performed on neonate and young rats (P1-15). Neurons were investigated using the whole cell voltage-clamp technique. Standard activation and inactivation protocols were used to characterize the steady-state and kinetic properties of the rapidly inactivating sodium current. Slow depolarizing ramp protocols were used to characterize the noninactivating sodium current. The "window" component of the rapidly inactivating sodium current was calculated using mathematical modeling. The persistent sodium current was revealed by subtraction of the window current from the total noninactivating sodium current. Our results provide evidence of the presence of persistent sodium currents in neurons of the rat rostroventrolateral medulla and determine voltage-gated characteristics of activation and inactivation of rapidly inactivating and persistent sodium channels in these neurons.
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