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Study of ion movements in isolated chicken retinas during spreading depression


Kow, Lee-Ming (1972) Study of ion movements in isolated chicken retinas during spreading depression. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/T0TR-Z517.


Spreading depression (SD) is a phenomenon observed in several sections of vertebrate central nervous system. It can occur spontaneously or be evoked by a variety of stimuli, and consists of a wave of depression of the normal electrical activity of the nervous tissue which spreads slowly in all directions in the tissue. This wave of depression is accompanied by several concomitants including ion movements. All the concomitants of SD can be explained by an increase in the sodium permeability of the plasma membranes of cellular elements involved in this phenomenon.

In the chicken retina, SD is accompanied by a transparency change which can be detected with the naked eye. The isolated retina is a thin (0.1 mm) membrane in which the extracellular fluid quickly and completely equilibrates with the incubation solutions. This preparation was therefore used to study the ion movements during SD by measuring and comparing the ion contents and the extracellular space (ECS) of retinas incubated in various solutions of which some inhibited SD, whereas others allowed this phenomenon to occur.

The present study has shown that during SD there is a shift of extracellular sodium into the intracellular compartment of the retina, a release of intracellular K and a decrease in the magnitude of ECS. These results are in agreement with previous postulates about SD, although the in vitro experimental condition makes the ion movements appear larger and the loss of ECS smaller than observed in the intact cortical tissue. The movements of Na and K, in opposite directions, are reversible. The development and magnitudes of SD is very little affected by deprivation of the oxygen supply.

It was established that the inward sodium shift is not a consequence of an arrest of the Na-pump. It can be prevented, together with SD by the membrane stabilizers, magnesium and procaine. Spreading depression and the ion movements are incompletely inhibited by tetrodotoxin, which blocks the sodium influx into nerve fibers during the action potential. The replacement of Na in the bathing solution by Li does not prevent SD, which is accompanied by Li accumulation in the intracellular compartment. From these experiments and others it was concluded that the mechanism underlying SD and the ion shifts is an increase in the sodium permeability of cell membranes.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Biology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Biology
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Unknown, Unknown
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:1 January 1972
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03212016-155122153
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:9632
Deposited On:22 Mar 2016 14:45
Last Modified:21 Dec 2019 01:54

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