Molecular and functional analysis of hyperpolarisation-activated nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels in the enteric nervous system

J Xiao, T V Nguyen, K Ngui, P J L M Strijbos, I-S Selmer, C B Neylon, J B Furness
Neuroscience 2004, 129 (3): 603-14
Hyperpolarisation-activated non-specific cation currents (Ih currents) are important for the regulation of cell excitability. These currents are carried by channels of the hyperpolarisation-activated nucleotide-gated (HCN) family, of which there are four known subtypes. In the enteric nervous system (ENS), the Ih current is prominent in AH neurons. We investigated the expression and localization of HCN isoforms in the ENS of mice, rats and guinea-pigs. HCN1, HCN2 and HCN4 were expressed in enteric neurons. Immunoreactivity for HCN1 was observed on neuronal cell membranes of Dogiel type II neurons in rat and mouse. HCN2 channel immunoreactivity occurred in the majority of enteric neurons in the guinea-pig, rat and mouse. Immunoreactivity for HCN4 protein was revealed on the cell membranes of many neurons, including Dogiel type II neurons, in the guinea-pig. HCN4 was expressed by glial cells in guinea-pig. There was no evidence of HCN3 channel protein in any species with either immunohistochemistry or Western analysis. RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) using mouse HCN primers revealed mRNA for all four channels in the longitudinal muscle plus myenteric plexus of mouse distal colon. Sequencing confirmed the identity of the mRNA. Quantitative PCR demonstrated that HCN2 was the most highly expressed HCN channel subtype in the myenteric plexus of mouse distal colon. HCN1 and HCN4 were expressed at lower levels. HCN3 subtype mRNA was 0.2% of HCN2. We used intracellular recording to identify neurons having Ih currents and intracellular dye filling to locate the neurons for the immunohistochemical determination of channel expression. AH neurons with Ih currents were HCN2 and HCN4 channel positive. There was no correlation between the magnitude of the Ih and intensity of channel immunoreactivity. Our results indicate that HCN1, 2 and 4 genes and protein are expressed in the ENS. AH/Dogiel type II neurons, which have a prominent Ih, express HCN2 and 4 in guinea-pig and HCN1 and 2 in mouse and rat.

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