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J Gen Physiol. Nov 1, 1977; 70(5): 549–566.
PMCID: PMC2228478

Inactivation of the sodium channel. I. Sodium current experiments

Abstract

Inactivation of sodium conductance has been studied in squid axons with voltage clamp techniques and with the enzyme pronase which selectively destroys inactivation. Comparison of the sodium current before and after pronase treatment shows a lag of several hundred microseconds in the onset of inactivation after depolarization. This lag can of several hundred microseconds in the onset of inactivation after polarization. This lag can also be demonstrated with double-pulse experiments. When the membrane potential is hyperpolarized to -140 mV before depolarization, both activation and inactivation are delayed. These findings suggest that inactivation occurs only after activation are delayed. These findings suggest that inactivation occurs only after activation; i.e. that the channels must open before they can inactivate. The time constant of inactivation measured with two pulses (τ(c)) is the same as the one measured from the decay of the sodium current during a single pulse (τ(h)). For large depolarizations, steady-state inactivation becomes more incomplete as voltage increases; but it is relatively complete and appears independent of voltage when determined with a two- pulse method. This result confirms the existence of a second open state for Na channels, as proposed by Chandler and Meves (1970. J. Physiol. [Lond.]. 211:653-678). The time constant of recovery from inactivation is voltage dependent and decreases as the membrane potential is made more negative. A model for Na channels is presented which has voltage-dependent transitions between the closed and open states, and a voltage-independent transition between the open and the inactivated state. In this model the voltage dependence of inactivation is a consequence of coupling to the activation process.

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