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Biophys J. 1986 Dec;50(6):1025-34.

Multi-ion conduction and selectivity in the high-conductance Ca++-activated K+ channel from skeletal muscle.


Open-channel ion permeation properties were investigated for Ca++-activated K+ (CaK) channels in solutions of K+ and its analogues T1+, Rb+, and NH4+. Single CaK channels were inserted into planar lipid bilayers composed of neutral phospholipids, and open-channel current-voltage (I-V) relations were measured in symmetrical and asymmetrical solutions of each of these individual ions. For all concentrations studied, the zero-voltage conductance falls in the sequence K+ greater than T1+ greater than NH4+ greater than Rb+. The shape of the I-V curve in symmetrical solutions of a single permeant ion is non-ohmic and is species-dependent. The I-V shape is sublinear for K+ and T1+ and superlinear for Rb+ and NH4+. As judged by reversal potentials under bi-ionic conditions with K+ on one side of the bilayer and the test cation on the other, the permeability sequence is T1+ greater than K+ greater than Rb+ greater than NH4+ at 300 mM, which differs from the conductance sequence. Symmetrical mixtures of K+ or NH4+ with Rb+ show a striking anomalous mole fraction behavior, i.e., a minimum in single-channel conductance when the composition of a two-ion mixture is varied at constant total ion concentration. This result is incompatible with present models that consider the CaK channel a single-ion pore. In total, the results show that the CaK channel finely discriminates among K+-like ions, exhibiting different energy profiles among these species, and that several such ions can reside simultaneously within the conduction pathway.

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