Extracellular potassium ions mediate specific neuronal interaction

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Science  02 Apr 1982:
Vol. 216, Issue 4541, pp. 80-82
DOI: 10.1126/science.6278595


The giant interneurons from the nerve system of the cockroach Periplaneta americana exhibit a peculiar reciprocal synaptic interaction. The synaptic potentials are not blocked by addition of 5 millimolar cobalt chloride and have an extrapolated reversal potential close to 0 millivolt. Hyperpolarizing current injected into one cell does not spread to the other. Intracellular injection of tetraethylammonium ions into one giant interneuron increases the duration of the action potential of the injected cell to 30 milliseconds and reduces the rise time and amplitude of the postsynaptic response recorded in the other giant interneuron. These results indicate that the interaction between the interneurons is not mediated by conventional chemical or electrotonic synapses.. All evidence points to generation of the potentials by localized increases in extracellular potassium concentrations as a consequence of firing of one neuron.