Effects of cGMP on voltage-gated currents in the somatic membrane of isolated newt olfactory receptor cells were investigated using the whole-cell mode of the patch-clamp technique. Under voltage clamp, membrane depolarization generated time- and voltage-dependent current responses, a transient inward current and a sustained outward current. When cGMP or a membrane permeant analog of cGMP, 8-p-chlorophenylthio-cGMP (CPT-cGMP), was applied to the recorded cell, the amplitude of the transient inward current increased markedly, but that of the sustained outward current did not change significantly. When each current was isolated by pharmacological agents, 0.1 mM CPT-cGMP increased the peak amplitude of a Na+ current (INa) by ∼40%, a T-type Ca2+ current (ICa,T) by ∼40%, and an L-type Ca2+current (ICa,L) by ∼10%; however it did not change significantly the amplitude of a delayed rectifier K+ current (IK). A selective cGMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitor, KT5823, blocked the enhancement by cGMP of INa and ICa,T, suggesting that cGMP increases these currents via cGMP-dependent phosphorylation. Under current-clamp conditions, application of CPT-cGMP lowered the current threshold of action potentials induced by current injection, and increased the maximum spike frequency in response to strong stimuli. We suggest that cGMP may lower the threshold in olfactory perception by decreasing the current threshold to generate spikes, and also prevent the saturation of odor signals by increasing the maximum spike frequency.
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