The onset response pattern displayed by octopus cells has been attributed to intrinsic membrane properties, low membrane impedance, and/or synaptic inputs. Although the importance of a low membrane impedance generally is acknowledged as an essential component, views differ on the role that ion channels play in producing the onset response. In this study, we use a computer model to investigate the contributions of ion channels to the responses of octopus cells. Simulations using current ramps indicate that, during the 'ramp-up' stage, the membrane depolarizes, activating a low- threshold K+ channel, K(LT), which increases membrane conductance and dynamically increases the current required to evoke an action 'potential. As a result, the model is sensitive to the rate that membrane potential changes when initiating an action potential. Results obtained when experimentally recorded spike trains of auditory-nerve fibers served as model inputs (simulating acoustic stimulation) demonstrate that a model with K(LT) conductance as the dominant conductance produces realistic onset response patterns. Systematically replacing the K(LT) conductance by a h-type conductance (which corresponds to a hyperpolarization-activated inward rectifier current, I(h)) or by a leakage conductance reduces the model's sensitivity to rate of change in membrane potential, and the model's response to 'acoustic stimulation' becomes more chopper-like. Increasing the h-type conductance while maintaining a large K(LT) conductance causes an increase in threshold to both current steps and acoustic stimulation but does not significantly affect the model's sensitivity to rate of change in membrane potential and the onset response pattern under acoustic stimulation. These findings support the idea that K(LT), which is activated during depolarization, is the primary membrane conductance determining the response properties of octopus cells, and its dynamic role cannot be provided by a static membrane conductance. On the other hand, I(h), which is activated during hyperpolarization, does not play a large role in the basic onset response pattern but may regulate response threshold through its contribution to the membrane conductance.
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