Shu, YS (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, Inst Neurosci, State Key Lab Neurosci, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China.,email@example.com
Patch-clamp recording requires direct accessibility of the cell membrane to patch pipettes and allows the investigation of ion channel properties and functions in specific cellular compartments. The cell body and relatively thick dendrites are the most accessible compartments of a neuron, due to their large diameters and therefore great membrane surface areas. However, axons are normally inaccessible to patch pipettes because of their thin structure; thus studies of axon physiology have long been hampered by the lack of axon recording methods. Recently, a new method of patch-clamp recording has been developed, enabling direct and tight-seal recording from cortical axons. These recordings are performed at the enlarged structure (axonal bleb) formed at the cut end of an axon after slicing procedures. This method has facilitated studies of the mechanisms underlying the generation and propagation of the main output signal, the action potential, and led to the finding that cortical neurons communicate not only in action potential-mediated digital mode but also in membrane potential-dependent analog mode.