Spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) relay acoustic code from cochlear hair cells to the brainstem, and their stimulation enables electrical hearing via cochlear implants. Rapid adaptation, a mechanism that preserves temporal precision, and a prominent feature of auditory neurons, is regulated via dendrotoxin-sensitive low-threshold voltage-activated (LVA)K+channels. Here, we investigated the molecular physiology of LVA currents in SGNs cultured from mice following the onset of hearing (postnatal days 12-21). Kv1.1- and Kv1.2-specific toxins blocked the LVA currents in a comparable manner, suggesting that both subunits contribute to functional heteromeric channels. Confocal immunofluorescence in fixed cochlear sections localized both Kv1.1 and Kv1.2 subunits to specific neuronal microdomains, including the somatic membrane, juxtaparanodes, and the first heminode, which forms the spike initiation site of the auditory nerve. The spatial distribution of Kv1 immunofluorescence appeared mutually exclusive to that of Kv3.1b subunits, which mediate high-threshold voltage-activated currents. As Kv1.2-containing channels are positively modulated by membrane phosphoinositides, we investigated the influence of phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) availability on SGN electrophysiology. Reducing PIP2 production using wortmannin, or sequestration of PIP2 using a palmitoylated peptide (PIP2-PP), slowed adaptation rate in SGN populations. PIP2-PP specifically inhibited the LVA current in SGNs, an effect reduced by intracellular dialysis of a nonhydrolysable analog of PIP2. PIP2-PP also inhibited heterologously expressed Kv1.1/Kv1.2 channels, recapitulating its effect in SGNs. Collectively, the data identify Kv1.1/Kv1.2 heteromeric channels as key regulators of action potential initiation and propagation in the auditory nerve, and suggest that modulation of these channels by endogenous phosphoinositides provides local control of membrane excitability.
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- Action potential