Because a rank-ordered recruitment of motor units occurs during isometric contraction of jaw-closing muscles, jaw-closing motoneurons (MNs) may be recruited in a manner dependent on their soma sizes or input resistances (IRs). In the dorsolateral part of the trigeminal motor nucleus (dl-TMN) in rats, MNs abundantly express TWIK (two-pore domain weak inwardly rectifying K channel)-related acid-sensitive-K+channel (TASK)-1 and TASK3 channels, which determine the IR and resting membrane potential. Here we examined how TASK channels are involved in IR-dependent activation/recruitment of MNs in the rat dl-TMN by using multiple methods. The real-time PCR study revealed that single large MNs (>35 µm) expressed TASK1 and TASK3 mRNAs more abundantly compared with single small MNs (15-20 µm). The immunohistochemistry revealed that TASK1 and TASK3 channels were complementarily distributed in somata and dendrites of MNs, respectively. The density of TASK1 channels seemed to increase with a decrease in soma diameter while there were inverse relationships between the soma size of MNs and IR, resting membrane potential, or spike threshold. Dual whole-cell recordings obtained from smaller and larger MNs revealed that the recruitment of MNs depends on their IRs in response to repetitive stimulation of the presumed Ia afferents. 8-Bromoguanosine-cGMP decreased IRs in small MNs, while it hardly changed those in large MNs, and subsequently decreased the difference in spike-onset latency between the smaller and larger MNs, causing a synchronous activation of MNs. These results suggest that TASK channels play critical roles in rank-ordered recruitment of MNs in the dl-TMN.
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