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Quasthoff, Stefan; Strupp, Michael and Grafe, Peter (1992): High conductance anion channel in Schwann cell vesicles from rat spinal roots. In: Glia, Vol. 5, No. 1: pp. 17-24 [PDF, 757kB]


Potassium uptake, possibly together with chloride, is one of the presumed functions of Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system. However, the presence of chloride channels has not been demonstrated in adult Schwann cells. We present here a new method which allows single channel recordings to be made from Schwann cells in situ without enzymatic treatment. Isolated rat spinal roots were split mechanically into several bundles. Within about 30 min after this procedure small belb-like vesicles (20-30 m in diameter) with a clean surface appeared at the edges of the fibre bundles. Immunofluorescence microscopy with a surface marker for Schwann cell membranes (monoclonal antibody O4) revealed that the vesicles originate from Schwann cells. In standard patch clamp recordings with symmetrical bath and pipette solutions (excised inside-out configuration) an anion channel with the following characteristics was mainly observed: (1) single channel slope conductance of 337 ± 5 pS in 125 mM KCl and 209 ± 6 pS in 125 mM K+ methylsulphate; (2) ion permeability ratio: PCl/PK/Pgluconate = 1/0.12/0.06; (3) linear current-voltage relationship (range ± 60 mV) and (4) voltage- and time-dependent inactivation (the channel was most active at potentials ± 20mV). Pharmacologically, the channel was completely blocked with zinc (1 mM) and barium (10 mM). A similar anion channel, showing characteristics 1 - (4), has been described in cultured Schwann cells of newborn rats (Gray et al., 1984). We now demonstrate that this channel is also present in adult Schwann cells in situ.

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