Changes in extracellular calcium and magnesium and synaptic transmission in isolated mouse spinal cord.
Hemisected mouse spinal cords were maintained in vitro and the concentrations of calcium [CA2+] and of magnesium [Mg2+] in the bath were varied. In control solution containing 1.2 mM of both [Ca2+] and [Mg2+] stimulation of a dorsal root (DR) evoked in an adjacent DR an initial fiber volley representing 'input'; a postsynaptic compound spike recorded by volume conduction from dorsal gray matter, the dorsal horn response (DHR); and a slow dorsal root potential (DRP). In the ventral root of the stimulated segment a monosynaptic reflex (VRR1) was evoked. The fiber volley was enhanced by lowering [Ca2+] or [Mg2+] and depressed when either ion concentration was raised. The DRP, DHR and VRR1 were enhanced in low [Mg2+] and in moderately elevated [Ca2+]. At 1.8 mM [Ca2+] and above, the 'classical' dorsal root reflex (DRR) and a GABA-dependent delayed VR reflex (VRR2) appeared. Transmission of reflexes was maximal between 2.4 and 3.6 mM [Ca2+], while DRP was maximal at about 4.8 mM. In elevated [Mg2+] and in low [Ca2+] all synaptically transmitted responses (DRR, DRP and VRR) were depressed. The influence of both [Ca2+] and [Mg2+] was stronger on DRP, DRR and VRR2 than on DHR and VRR1. The effects of simultaneous changes of [Ca2+] and [Mg2+] partially cancelled each other. We conclude that low to moderately elevated [Ca2+] mainly influences the release of transmitter from presynaptic terminals; at very high [Ca2+] the depression of neuronal excitability dominates. The effects of Ca2+ and Mg2+ on GABAergic transmission are especially marked.
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