Although several ionic mechanisms are known to control rate and regularity of the pacemaker in dopamine (DA) neurons from the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc), a conductance essential for pacing has yet to be defined. Here we provide pharmacological evidence that pacemaking of SNc DA neurons is enabled by an unconventional conductance. We found that 1-(2,4-xylyl)guanidine (XG), an established blocker of gating pore currents in mutant voltage gated sodium channels, selectively stops pacemaking of DA SNc neurons and is without effect on the main pore of their voltage-gated channels. We isolated a voltage-dependent, non-inactivating XG-sensitive current of 20-25 pA which operates in the relevant subthreshold range and is carried by both Na+ and Cl- ions. While the molecular identity of this conductance remains to be determined, we show that this XG-sensitive current is crucial to sustain pacemaking in these neurons.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience