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Microsecond Time-Scale Discrimination Among Polycytidylic and Polyuridylic Acid as Homopolymers Within Single RNA Molecules
Single molecules of DNA or RNA can be detected as they are driven through an α-hemolysin channel by an applied electric field. During translocation, nucleotides within the polynucleotide must pass through the channel pore in sequential, single-file order because the limiting diameter of the pore can accommodate only one strand of DNA or RNA at a time. Here we demonstrate that this nanopore behaves as a detector that can rapidly discriminate between pyrimidine and purine segments along an RNA molecule. Nanopore detection and characterization of single molecules represent a new method for directly reading information encoded in linear polymers, and are critical first steps toward direct sequencing of individual DNA and RNA molecules.
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Persistent Sodium Current in Layer 5 Neocortical Neurons Is Primarily Generated in the Proximal Axon
In addition to the well described fast-inactivating component of the Na+ current [transient Na+ current (INaT)], neocortical neurons also exhibit a low-voltage-activated, slowly inactivating “persistent” Na+ current (INaP), which plays a role in determining neuronal excitability and synaptic integration. We investigated the Na+ channels responsible for INaP in layer 5 pyramidal cells using cell-attached and whole-cell recordings in neocortical slices. In simultaneous cell-attached and whole-cell somatic recordings, no persistent Na+ channel activity was detected at potentials at which whole-cell INaP operates. Detailed kinetic analysis of late Na+ channel activity in cell-attached patches at 36°C revealed that somatic Na+ channels do not demonstrate “modal gating” behavior and that the probability of single late openings is extremely low (<1.4 × 10−4 or <0.02% of maximal open probability of INaT). Ensemble averages of these currents did not reveal a sustained component whose amplitude and voltage dependence could account for INaP as seen in whole-cell recordings.
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Many of the molecules involved in biological signaling processes are easily oxidized and have been monitored by electrochemical methods. Temporal response, spatial considerations, and sensitivity of the electrodes must be optimized for the specific biological application. To monitor exocytosis from single cells in culture, constant potential amperometry offers the best temporal resolution, and a low-noise picoammeter improves the detection limits. Smaller electrodes, with 1-μm diameters, provided spatial resolution sufficient to identify the locations of release sites on the surface of single cells. For the study of neurotransmitter release in vivo, larger cylindrical microelectrodes are advantageous because the secreted molecules come from multiple terminals near the electrode, and the greater amounts lead to a larger signal that emerges from the Johnson noise of the current amplifier. With this approach, dopamine release elicited by two electrical stimulus pulses at 10 Hz was detected with fast-scan cyclic voltammetry in vivo. Nafion-coated elliptical electrodes have previously been shown to be incapable of detecting such concentration changes without extensive signal averaging. In addition, we demonstrate that high-pass filtering (200 Hz) of cyclic voltammograms recorded at 300 V/s decreases the background current and digitization noise at these microelectrodes, leading to an improved signal. Also, high-pass filtering discriminated against ascorbic acid, DOPAC, and acidic pH changes, three common interferences in vivo.
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