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Topic 4 The action potential in nerve fibers (phases, the role of voltage-gated ion

channels, changes in excitability during the action potential)

Action potential
Wave of electrical discharge that travels along the membrane of a cell.
for communication between neurons and other tissues- muscles, glands. When
stimulus arrives its energy causes a temporary reversal of the charges on the neuron
cell surface membrane. As a result, the negative potential of 70 mV inside the
membrane becomes a positive potential of around +40mV. This is known as the
action potential, and in this condition the membrane is said to be depolarized. All or
nothing reaction
1. Resting potential potassium leak channels are open, voltage-gated Na+
channels closed. Though, no net current is flowing, major ion species moving
across membrane is potassium, pulling resting potential close to the K+
equilibrium potential.
2. Stimulation - local membrane depolarization caused by an excitatory stimulus
causes voltage-gated sodium channels to open, therefore, sodium ions diffuse
in through the channels along their electrochemical gradient. Being positively
charged, they begin a reversal in the potential difference across the membrane
from negative-inside to positive-inside.
3. Rising phase depolarization - As sodium ions enter membrane potential
becomes less negative; more sodium channels open, causing an even greater
influx of sodium ions. Sodium current dominates over potassium leak current
and membrane potential becomes positive inside.
4. Peak - By the time the membrane potential has reached a peak value of around
+45 mV voltage-sensitive inactivation gates on the sodium channels have
already started to close, reducing and finally
preventing further influx of sodium ions. While this
happens, voltage-sensitive activation gates on the
voltage-gated potassium channels begin to open.
5. Falling phase repolarization - voltage-gated
potassium channels open, large outward movement of
potassium ions driven by the potassium concentration
gradient and favored by the positive-inside electrical
gradient. As potassium ions diffuse out, this movement
of positive charge causes a reversal of the membrane
potential to negative-inside and repolarization of the
neuron back towards the large negative-inside resting
6. Undershoot hyperpolarization - As potassium exits
the cell, the resulting membrane repolarization initiates
the closing of voltage-gated potassium channels. These
channels don't close immediately, rather, voltage-gated
potassium channels have delayed response, and
potassium continues to flow out of the cell even after
the membrane has fully repolarized. potential dips below normal resting
membrane potential of the cell for a brief moment;

the role of voltage-gated ion channels

inactivation and activation gate in voltage gated Na channels. One gate in voltage
gated K channels. The depolarization occurs because channels in the axon membrane
change shape, and hence open or close, depending on the voltage.

Both the speed and complexity of action potentials vary between different types of cells. However, the amplitudes of
the voltage swings tend to be roughly the same.

changes in excitability during the action potential

Refractory period
Where membrane has undergone an action
potential, a refractory period follows.
Absolute refractory period, virtually all
sodium channels are inactivated and thus it is
impossible to fire another action potential in
that segment of membrane.
Relative refractory period - With time,
sodium channels are reactivated in a stochastic
manner. As they become available, it becomes
possible to fire an action potential.

Nerve 1ms
Skeletal 10 ms
Cardiac 200 ms