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RNA synthesis dependence of action potential development in spinal cord neurones.


The role of transcription in the development of electrical properties of neuronal membranes has been largely unexplored. To study the molecular events which result in the expression of these properties it is useful to describe the timing of the underlying RNA synthetic events. For example, the timing of the transcription involved in denervation-induced action potentials in frog slow muscle fibres and brain extract-induced sodium channels in chick muscle cells has been investigated. Previous studies of Xenopus laevis spinal neurones have established that the timing of the development of the neuronal action potential ionic dependence in dissociated cell cultures parallels that seen in vivo. This culture system, therefore, allows the determination of transcription-dependent periods necessary for the development of membrane properties known to have in vivo relevance. In the study described here, actinomycin D was used to examine the timing of the RNA synthetic events necessary for (1) neurite outgrowth and (2) development of the ionic dependence of the action potential. I report that inhibition of transcription at an early stage specifically blocks the appearance of the mature sodium-dependent action potential without affecting either neurite outgrowth or the development of delayed rectification.

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