The striatum of the lamprey, the first vertebrate group to appear in evolution, shows striking similarities to that of mammals with respect to histochemical markers, afferent and efferent projections and the effect of dopamine depletion, which leads to hypokinetic motor symptoms. The cellular properties of lamprey striatal neurons were studied here using patch-clamp recordings in acute striatal slices. Sixty-five per cent of recorded neurons were characterised by a prominent inward rectification due to a K+ conductance of the Kir type. They had a ramping response with a long delay to the first action potential due to activation of a low-voltage-activated A-type K+ current. Many such inwardly rectifying neurons (IRNs) had a hyperpolarised resting membrane potential and some had spiny dendrites. The remaining 35% of the neurons (non-IRNs) represent a heterogeneous group, including some with characteristics similar to the fast-spiking interneuron of the mammalian striatum. They showed short-lasting, large after hyperpolarisations (AHPs) and discharged action potentials at high frequency. None of the recorded neurons were spontaneously active but they received GABAergic and glutamatergic synaptic input. The fact that most lamprey striatal neurons display inward rectification indicates that this is a conserved characteristic of striatal neurons throughout vertebrate phylogeny. This is a cellular property of critical importance for the operations of the striatum in mammals.
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