It is generally accepted that inositol-1,4,5-trisphosphate (InsP3) plays a role in olfactory transduction. However, the precise mode of action of InsP3 remains controversial. We have characterized the conductances activated by the addition of 10 μM InsP3 to excised patches of soma plasma membrane from rat olfactory neurons. InsP3 induced current fluctuations in 25 of 121 inside-out patches. These conductances could be classified into two groups according to the polarity of the current at a holding potential of +40 to +60 mV (with Ringer's in the pipette and pseudointracellular solution in the bath). Conductances mediating outward currents could be further divided into large- (64 ± 4 pS, n = 4) and small- (16 ± 1.7 pS, n = 11) conductance channels. Both small- and large-conductance channels were nonspecific cation channels. The large-conductance channel displayed bursting behavior at +40 mV, with flickering increasing at negative holding potentials to the point where single-channel currents were no longer discernible. The small- conductance channel did not display flickering behavior. The conductance mediating inward currents at +40 to +60 mV reversed at ±73 ± 4 mV (n = 4). The current traces displayed considerable fluctuations, and single-channel currents could not be discerned. The current fluctuations returned to baseline after removal of InsP3. The power density spectrum for the excess noise generated by InsP3 followed a 1/f dependence consistent with conductance fluctuations in the channel mediating this current, although other mechanisms are not excluded. These experiments demonstrate the presence of plasma membrane InsP3-gated channels of different ionic specificity in olfactory receptor cells.
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