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Enhancement by T-type Ca2+ currents of odor sensitivity in olfactory receptor cells.

F Kawai, E Miyachi

J. Neurosci., 2001 May 15 , 21, RC144

Mechanisms underlying action potential initiation in olfactory receptor cells (ORCs) during odor stimulation were investigated using conventional and dynamic patch-clamp recording techniques. Under current-clamp conditions, action potentials generated by a least effective odor-induced depolarization were almost completely blocked by 0.1 mm Ni(2+), a T-type Ca(2+) channel blocker, but not by 0.1 mm Cd(2+), a high voltage-activated Ca(2+) channel blocker. Under voltage-clamp conditions, depolarizing voltage steps induced a fast transient inward current, which consisted of Na(+) (I(Na)) and T-type Ca(2+) (I(Ca,T)) currents. The amplitude of I(Ca,T) was approximately one-fourth of that of I(Na) (0.23 +/- 0.03, mean +/- SEM). Because both I(Na) and I(Ca,T) are known to show rapid inactivation, we examined how much I(Na) and I(Ca,T) are activated during the gradually depolarizing initial phase of receptor potentials. The ratio of I(Ca,T)/I(Na) during a ramp depolarization at the slope of 0.5 mV/msec was 0.56 +/- 0.03. Using the dynamic patch-clamp recording technique, we also recorded I(Ca,T) and I(Na) during the generation of odor-induced action potentials. This ratio of I(Ca,T)/I(Na) was 0.54 +/- 0.04. These ratios were more than twice as large as that (0.23) obtained from the experiment using voltage steps, suggesting that I(Ca,T) carries significant amount of current to generate the action potentials. We conclude that I(Ca,T) contributes to enhance odor sensitivity by lowering the threshold of spike generation in ORCs.