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J Membr Biol. 2000 Mar 1;174(1):71-83.

Cation permeability and selectivity of a root plasma membrane calcium channel.

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Department of Plant Genetics and Biotechnolgy, Horticulture Researh International, Wellesbourne, Warwick UK.


Calcium channels in the plasma membrane of root cells fulfill both nutritional and signaling roles. The permeability of these channels to different cations determines the magnitude of their cation conductances, their effects on cell membrane potential and their contribution to cation toxicities. The selectivity of the rca channel, a Ca2+-permeable channel from the plasma membrane of wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) roots, was studied following its incorporation into planar lipid bilayers. The permeation of K+, Na+, Ca2+ and Mg2+ through the pore of the rca channel was modeled. It was assumed that cations permeated in single file through a pore with three energy barriers and two ion-binding sites. Differences in permeation between divalent and monovalent cations were attributed largely to the affinity of the ion binding sites. The model suggested that significant negative surface charge was present in the vestibules to the pore and that the pore could accommodate two cations simultaneously, which repelled each other strongly. The pore structure of the rca channel appeared to differ from that of L-type calcium channels from animal cell membranes since its ion binding sites had a lower affinity for divalent cations. The model adequately accounted for the diverse permeation phenomena observed for the rca channel. It described the apparent submillimolar Km for the relationship between unitary conductance and Ca2+ activity, the differences in selectivity sequences obtained from measurements of conductance and permeability ratios, the changes in relative cation permeabilities with solution ionic composition, and the complex effects of Ca2+ on K+ and Na+ currents through the channel. Having established the adequacy of the model, it was used to predict the unitary currents that would be observed under the ionic conditions employed in patch-clamp experiments and to demonstrate the high selectivity of the rca channel for Ca2+ influx under physiological conditions.

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