We used the patch-clamp technique to study voltage-activated transient potassium currents in freshly dispersed and cultured chick dorsal root ganglion (DRG) cells. Whole-cell and cell-attached patch currents were recorded under conditions appropriate for recording potassium currents. In whole-cell experiments, 100-ms depolarizations from normal resting potentials (-50 to -70 mV) elicited sustained outward currents that inactivated over a time scale of seconds. We attribute this behavior to a component of delayed rectifier current. After conditioning hyperpolarizations to potentials negative to -80 mV, depolarizations elicited transient outward current components that inactivated with time constants in the range of 8-26 ms. We attribute this behavior to a transient outward current component. Conditioning hyperpolarizations increased the rate of activation of the net outward current implying that the removal of inactivation of the transient outward current allows it to contribute to early outward current during depolarizations from negative potentials. Transient current was more prominent on the day the cells were dispersed and decreased with time in culture. In cell-attached patches, single channels mediating outward currents were observed that were inactive at resting potentials but were active transiently during depolarizations to potentials positive to -30 mV. The probability of channels being open increased rapidly (peaking within ~6 ms) and then declined with a time constant in the range of 13-30 ms. With sodium as the main extracellular cation, single-channel conductances ranged from 18 to 32 pS. With potassium as the main extracellular cation, the single-channel conductance was ~43 pS, and the channel current reversed near 0 mV, as expected for a potassium current. We conclude that the transient potassium channels mediate the component of transient outward current seen in the whole-cell experiments. This current is a relatively small component of the net current during depolarizations from normal resting potentials, but it can contribute significant outward curent early in depolarizations from hyperpolarized potentials.
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