Rapid firing of cerebellar Purkinje neurons is facilitated in part by a voltage-gated Na+ (NaV) ‘resurgent’ current, which allows renewed Na+ influx during membrane repolarization. Resurgent current results from unbinding of a blocking particle that competes with normal channel inactivation. The underlying molecular components contributing to resurgent current have not been fully identified. In this study, we show that the NaV channel auxiliary subunit FGF14 ‘b’ isoform, a locus for inherited spinocerebellar ataxias, controls resurgent current and repetitive firing in Purkinje neurons. FGF14 knockdown biased NaV channels towards the inactivated state by decreasing channel availability, diminishing the ‘late’ NaV current, and accelerating channel inactivation rate, thereby reducing resurgent current and repetitive spiking. Critical for these effects was both the alternatively spliced FGF14b N-terminus and direct interaction between FGF14b and the NaV C-terminus. Together, these data suggest that the FGF14b N-terminus is a potent regulator of resurgent NaV current in cerebellar Purkinje neurons.The cerebellum is a region of the brain that is involved in motor control, and it contains a special type of nerve cells called Purkinje neurons. Messages travel along neurons as electrical signals carried by sodium ions, which have a positive electric charge. Normally, when a neuron is ‘at rest’, the plasma membrane that surrounds the neuron prevents the sodium ions outside the cell from entering. To send an electrical signal, voltage-sensitive proteins in the membrane called sodium channels open up. This allows the sodium ions to enter the cell by passing through a pore in the channel protein, thereby changing the voltage across the membrane.Once sodium channels open, they rapidly become ‘locked’ in a closed state, which allows the membrane voltage to return to its original value before another signal can be sent. This locked state also prevents sodium channels from reopening quickly. As a consequence most neurons cannot send successive electrical signals rapidly. Purkinje neurons are unusual because they can send many electrical signals in quick succession—known as rapid firing—without having to be reset each time.Rapid firing is possible in Purkinje neurons because the channel proteins can be reopened to allow more Na+ to enter the cell, but it is not clear how this is controlled. Now, based on experiments on Purkinje neurons isolated from mice, Yan et al. have shown that a protein called FGF14 that binds to the sodium channel proteins can help them to reopen quickly in order to allow rapid firing.Spinocerebellar ataxia is a degenerative disease caused by damage to the cerebellum that leads to loss of physical coordination. Some patients suffering from this disease carry mutations in the gene that makes the FGF14 protein. Therefore, understanding the role of FGF14 in the rapid firing of Purkinje neurons may aid the development of new treatments for this disease.
Yan, H., Pablo, J. L., Wang, C., & Pitt, G. S. (2014). FGF14 modulates resurgent sodium current in mouse cerebellar Purkinje neurons. ELife, 3. https://doi.org/10.7554/elife.04193