Physiology

Despite having a common lineage with astrocytes, oligodendrocytes exhibit different ion channel distribution, most likely due to the different functional properties of each cell type. The mature oligodendro-cyte expresses an inwardly rectifying K+ channel, which constitutes the predominant ion channel in differentiated oligodendrocytes in vitro. This channel has a conductance of 29 pS. Mature oligodendrocytes never express voltage-activated Na+ channels, which are lost at an early stage of maturation. However, mature oligodendrocytes do express a tetrodotoxin-sensitive, voltage-independent Na+ channel that is activated by acidification. Stepping of pH from 7.9 to 6.7 induces a large, slowly inactivating current that is potentiated by reducing ambient [Ca2+]o. A functional role for this channel has not been established.

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