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Biophys J. 1992 Apr;62(1):160-8; discussion 169-71.

Gating currents in Shaker K+ channels. Implications for activation and inactivation models.

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Department of Physiology, University of California, Los Angeles 90024.


We have studied ionic and gating currents in mutant and wild-type Shaker K+ channels to investigate the mechanisms of channel activation and the relationship between the voltage sensor of the channel and its inactivation particle. The turn on of the gating current shows a rising phase, indicating that the hypothetical identical activation subunits are not independent. Hyperpolarizing prepulses indicate that most of the voltage-dependence occurs in the transitions between closed states. The open-to-closed transition is voltage independent, as suggested by the presence of a rising phase in the off gating currents. In Shaker channels showing fast inactivation, the off gating charge is partially immobilized as a result of depolarizing pulses that elicit inactivation. In mutant channels lacking inactivation, the charge is recovered quickly at the end of the pulse. Internal TEA mimics the inactivation particle in its behavior but the charge immobilization is established faster and is complete. We conclude that the activation mechanism cannot be due to the movement of identical independent gating subunits, each undergoing first order transitions, and that the inactivation particle is responsible for charge immobilization in this channel.

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