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Biophys J. 1992 Jan;61(1):96-108.

Voltage-sensitive and solvent-sensitive processes in ion channel gating. Kinetic effects of hyperosmolar media on activation and deactivation of sodium channels.

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Pacific Biomedical Research Center, Békésy Laboratory of Neurobiology, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822.


Kinetic effects of osmotic stress on sodium ionic and gating currents have been studied in crayfish giant axons after removal of fast inactivation with chloramine-T. Internal perfusion with media made hyperosmolar by addition of formamide or sucrose, reduces peak sodium current (before and after removal of fast inactivation with chloramine-T), increases the half-time for activation, but has no effect on tail current deactivation rate(s). Kinetics of ON and OFF gating currents are not affected by osmotic stress. These results confirm (and extend to sodium channels) the separation of channel gating mechanisms into voltage-sensitive and solvent-sensitive processes recently proposed by Zimmerberg J., F. Bezanilla, and V. A. Parsegian. (1990. Biophys. J. 57:1049-1064) for potassium delayed rectifier channels. Additionally, the kinetic effects produced by hyperosmolar media seem qualitatively similar to the kinetic effects of heavy water substitution in crayfish axons (Alicata, D. A., M. D. Rayner, and J. G. Starkus. 1990. Biophys. J. 57:745-758). However, our observations are incompatible with models in which voltage-sensitive and solvent-sensitive gating processes are presumed to be either (a) strictly sequential or, (b) parallel and independent. We introduce a variant of the parallel model which includes explicit coupling between voltage-sensitive and solvent-sensitive processes. Simulations of this model, in which the total coupling energy is as small as 1/10th of kT, demonstrate the characteristic kinetic changes noted in our data.

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