1. The nucleus locus coeruleus (LC) is made up of noradrenergic cells all of which are hyperpolarized by opioids. Recent work has shown that the reversal potential of the opioid-induced current is more negative than the potassium equilibrium potential. The aim of the present study was to determine whether the extent of the dendritic field could contribute to the very negative opioid reversal potential. 2. Individual LC cells were labeled in the brain slice preparation. The number of dendrites found on cells in slices sectioned in the horizontal plane was greater than cells in coronal slices. However, the dimensions of the cell body slices from each plane were not significantly different. 3. The resting conductance of neurons from slices cut in the horizontal plane was significantly larger than in cells from coronal plane. 4. The amplitude of the outward current induced by [Met5]enkephalin (ME) was larger in cells from horizontal slices and the reversal potential was more negative than that of cells in coronal slices. 5. The results show that the plane of section influences the membrane properties and opioid actions of LC neurons in vitro and suggest that these differences correlate with the numbers of dendrites. The results suggest that in vivo, in addition to intrinsic membrane properties and synaptic inputs, the structural makeup of the nucleus is an important factor in determining the activity.
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