Fleidervish, Ilya A.; Lasser-Ross, Nechama; Gutnick, Michael J.; Ross, William N.
In cortical pyramidal neurons, the axon initial segment (AIS) plays a pivotal role in synaptic
integration. It has been asserted that this property reflects a high density of Na+ channels in AIS.
However, we here report that AP–associated Na+ flux, as measured by high–speed fluorescence
Na+ imaging, is about 3 times larger in the rat AIS than in the soma. Spike evoked Na+ flux in
the AIS and the first node of Ranvier is about the same, and in the basal dendrites it is about 8
times lower. At near threshold voltages persistent Na+ conductance is almost entirely axonal.
Finally, we report that on a time scale of seconds, passive diffusion and not pumping is
responsible for maintaining transmembrane Na+ gradients in thin axons during high frequency
AP firing. In computer simulations, these data were consistent with the known features of AP
generation in these neurons.