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Biophys J. 1992 Mar;61(3):639-48.

Ion effects on gating of the Ca(2+)-activated K+ channel correlate with occupancy of the pore.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.


We studied the effects of permeant ions on the gating of the large conductance Ca(2+)-activated K+ channel from rat skeletal muscle. Rb+ blockade of inward K+ current caused an increase in the open probability as though Rb+ occupancy of the pore interferes with channel closing. In support of this hypothesis, we directly measured the occupancy of the pore by the impermeant ion Cs+ and found that it strongly correlates with its effect on gating. This is consistent with the "foot-in-the-door" model of gating, which states that channels cannot close with an ion in the pore. However, because Rb+ and Cs+ not only slow the closing rate (as predicted by the model), but also speed the opening rate, our results are more consistent with a modified version of the model in which the channel can indeed close while occupied, but the occupancy destabilizes the closed state. Increasing the occupancy of the pore by the addition of other permeant (K+ and Tl+) and impermeant (tetraethylammonium) ions did not affect the open probability. To account for this disparity, we used a two-site permeation model in which only one of the sites influenced gating. Occupancy of this "gating site" interferes with channel closing and hastens opening. Ions that directly or indirectly increase the occupancy of this site will increase the open probability.

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