Neurochemical and electrophysiological characteristics of rat striatal neurons in primary culture

Torsten Falk, Shiling Zhang, Emilie L. Erbe, Scott J. Sherman

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42 Scopus citations


Neurons maintained in dispersed primary culture offer a number of advantages as a model system and are particularly well-suited for studies of the intrinsic electrical properties of neurons by patch clamp. We have characterized the immunocytochemical and electrophysiological properties of cultured rat striatal neurons as they develop in vitro in order to compare this model system with the known properties found in vivo. We found a high abundance of cells in vitro corresponding to the principal striatal output neuron, the medium spiny neuron. Immunocytochemical studies indicate that these cells have both dopamine-1 and dopamine-2 receptors and that there is overlap in their expression within the population of neurons. Semiquantitative analysis revealed bimodal distributions of dopamine receptor expression among the population of neurons. The principal peptide neurotransmitters substance P and enkephalin were present but at reduced levels compared with adult preparations. Other striatal markers such as calbindin, calretinin, and the cannabinoid-1 receptor were abundant. An immunocytochemical survey of voltage-gated K+ channel subunits characteristic of adult tissue demonstrated the presence in vitro of Kv1.1, Kv1.4, Kv4.2, Kv4.3, and Kvβ1.1, which have been associated with the rapidly inactivating currents. Electrophysiological studies employing voltage clamp revealed that outward currents had a large inactivating (A-type) component characteristic of mature basal ganglia. Current clamp studies reveal complex spontaneous firing patterns in a subset of neurons, including bursting behaviors superimposed on a slow depolarization. The inward rectifying channels Kir2.1 and Kir2.3, which are specific to particular compartments in adult striatum, were present in culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-289
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2006


  • Calcium binding proteins
  • Dopamine receptors
  • Enkephalin
  • Potassium channels
  • Striatal neurons
  • Substance P

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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