Evidence for the role of non-quantal acetylcholine in the maintenance of the membrane potential of rat skeletal muscle

J J Bray, J W Forrest, J I Hubbard
Journal of Physiology 1982, 326: 285-96
1. Resting membrane potentials of rat diaphragm muscles cultured in Trowell T8 medium were measured in vitro. After 3 hr in culture the resting membrane potential of muscle fibres within 2.5 mm of nerve section (;near') was -68.3 +/- 0.4 mV (nineteen preparations). This was significantly lower (P < 0.001) than the resting potential (-74.0 +/- 0.4 mV) measured in muscle fibres 8-10 mm from the site of nerve section (;far') in the same preparations. A difference between the ;near' and the ;far' fibres was maintained in muscles cultured for 6 and 12 hr. Miniature end-plate potentials were present in both ;near' and ;far' fibres cultured for 3 and 6 hr and ceased after 12-15 hr.2. The presence of carbamylcholine (10(-7) or 10(-8) M) maintained the resting membrane potential of ;near' fibres close to that of ;far' fibres at 3, 6 and 12 hr. For example, at 3 hr in the presence of 10(-8) M-carbamylcholine the mean resting potential was 75.6 +/- 0.5 mV in ;near' fibres and 76.1 +/- 0.4 mV in ;far' fibres (four preparations). A similar effect was produced in preparations exposed to anticholinesterases: diisopropylphosphorofluoridate (DFP) (10(-7) M), neostigmine (10(-7) M) or physostigmine (10(-5) M).3. Agents that blocked acetylcholine receptors had the reverse effect. In the presence of alpha-bungarotoxin (1 mug/ml.) or d-tubocurarine (10(-5) M) the resting membrane potential of ;far' fibres was reduced to the level of ;near' fibres over the 24 hr period of observation. For example, at 3 hr in the presence of alpha-bungarotoxin the mean resting potential was 67.2 +/- 0.5 mV in ;near' fibres and 68.5 +/- 0.6 mV in ;far' fibres (six preparations). The effect of d-tubocurarine was reversible.4. When muscles were cultured in Ca(2+)-free medium containing 1 mM-EGTA and 10 mM-Mg(2+), there was no difference in membrane potential between ;near' and ;far' fibres and physostigmine (10(-5) M) was ineffective in raising the membrane potential of ;near' fibres.5. It is suggested that non-quantal acetylcholine released from nerve terminals maintains the membrane potential of muscle fibres through a Ca(2+)-dependent mechanism.

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