Quantal evoked depolarizations underlying the excitatory junction potential of the guinea-pig isolated vas deferens
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1. The effects of a putative gap junction uncoupling agent, heptanol, on the intracellularly recorded junction potentials of the guinea-pig isolated ras deferens have been investigated. 2. After the stimulation-evoked excitatory junction potentials (EJPs) had been suppressed by heptanol (2.0 mM) to undetectable levels, a different pattern of evoked activity ensued. This consisted of transient depolarizations: that were similar to EJPs in being stimulus locked and in occurring at a fixed latency, but differed from EJPs in that they occurred intermittently and had considerably briefer time courses. 3. Analysis of the amplitudes and temporal parameters of the rapid residual depolarizations revealed a close similarity with spontaneous EJPs (SEJPs). There was no statistically significant difference between the rise times, time constants of decay and durations of the rapid residual depolarizations and of SEJPs. 4. Selected evoked depolarizations were virtually identical to SEJPs occurring in the same cell. Evoked depolarizations of closely similar amplitude and time course also occurred, usually within a few stimuli of each other. 5. These depolarizations appear to represent the individual quantal depolarizations that normally underlie the EJP and are therefore termed 'quantal excitatory junction potentials' (QEJPs) to distinguish them from both EJPs and SEJPs. 6. We examined the possibility that heptanol revealed QEJPs by disrupting electrical coupling between cells in the smooth muscle syncytium. Heptanol (2.0 mM) had no effect on the amplitude distribution, time courses, or the frequency of occurrence of SEJPs. Intracellular input impedance (R-in) of smooth muscle cells was left unaltered by heptanol. 7. 'Cable' potentials of the vas deferens, recorded using the partition stimulation method, also remained unchanged in the presence of heptanol. Thus, heptanol appeared not to modify syncytial electrical properties of the smooth muscle in any significant way. 8. Our observations show directly that the quantal depolarizations underlying the EJP in syncytial smooth muscle are SEJP-like events. However, no unequivocal statement can be made about the mechanism by which heptanol unmasks QEJPs from EJPs.
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