Fast-spiking, parvalbumin-expressing GABAergic interneurons (PV+-BCs) express a complex machinery of rapid signaling mechanisms, including specialized voltage-gated ion channels to generate brief action potentials (APs). However, short APs are associated with overlapping Na+ and K+ fluxes and are therefore energetically expensive. How the potentially vicious combination of high AP frequency and inefficient spike generation can be reconciled with limited energy supply is presently unclear. To address this question, we performed direct recordings from the PV+-BC axon, the subcellular structure where active conductances for AP initiation and propagation are located. Surprisingly, the energy required for the AP was, on average, only ∼1.6 times the theoretical minimum. High energy efficiency emerged from the combination of fast inactivation of Na+ channels and delayed activation of Kv3-type K+ channels, which minimized ion flux overlap during APs. Thus, the complementary tuning of axonal Na+ and K+ channel gating optimizes both fast signaling properties and metabolic efficiency.
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