The dependence of calcium-activated potassium currents on membrane potential

A. R. Martin, P. A. Fuchs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Previous experiments on cholinergic synapses in chick cochlear hair cells have shown that calcium entering through acetylcholine-activated synaptic channels in turn activates calcium-dependent potassium currents, resulting in synaptic inhibition. In voltage-clamp experiments such currents would be expected to increase with depolarization (as the driving force for potassium entry is increased; and then decrease towards zero as the membrane approaches the calcium equilibrium potential (when calcium entry is suppressed). In the hair cells, however, such currents approached zero at about +20 mV, more than 170 mV negative to the calcium equilibrium potential. Another feature of the synapse is its post-junctional morphology: a uniform 20 nm cleft is formed between the postsynaptic membrane and the outermost membrane of an underlying cisterna. Here we present a model in which synaptic activation results in calcium influx into the subsynaptic cleft and thence into the bulk of the cytoplasm. The model suggests that the voltage dependence of the calcium-activated potassium current can be accounted for by only two basic assumptions: (i) entry of calcium through the activated synaptic channels by simple diffusion; and (ii) activation of the potassium channels by the cooperative action of four calcium ions. In addition, the model suggests that during activation the calcium concentration in the restricted subsynaptic space can reach levels adequate to activate the potassium channels, without requiring additional, more complicated, considerations (for example, secondary calcium release from the cisterna).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-76
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1327
StatePublished - Jan 1 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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