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J Gen Physiol. 1993 Jan;101(1):1-25.

Interactions between divalent cations and the gating machinery of cyclic GMP-activated channels in salamander retinal rods.

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Department of Neurobiology, Sherman Fairchild Center, Stanford University School of Medicine, California 94305.


The effects of divalent cations on the gating of the cGMP-activated channel, and the effects of gating on the movement of divalent cations in and out of the channel's pore were studied by recording macroscopic currents in excised membrane patches from salamander retinal rods. The fractional block of cGMP-activated Na+ currents by internal and external Mg2+ as well as internal Ca2+ was nearly independent of cGMP concentration. This indicates that Mg2+ and Ca2+ bind with similar affinity to open and closed states of the channel. In contrast, the efficiency of block by internal Cd2+ or Zn2+ increased in proportion to the fraction of open channels, indicating that these ions preferentially occupy open channels. The kinetics of block by internal Ni2+, which competes with Mg2+ but blocks more slowly, were found to be unaffected by the fraction of channels open. External Ni2+, however, blocked and unblocked much more rapidly when channels were mostly open. This suggests that within the pore a gate is located between the binding site(s) for ions and the extracellular mouth of the channel. Micromolar concentrations of the transition metal divalent cations Ni2+, Cd2+, Zn2+, and Mn2+ applied to the cytoplasmic surface of a patch potentiated the response to subsaturating concentrations of cGMP without affecting the maximum current induced by saturating cGMP. The concentration of cGMP that opened half the channels was often lowered by a factor of three or more. Potentiation persisted after the experimental chamber was washed with divalent-free solution and fresh cGMP was applied, indicating that it does not result from an interaction between divalent cations and cGMP in solution; 1 mM EDTA or isotonic MgCl2 reversed potentiation. Voltage-jump experiments suggest that potentiation results from an increase in the rate of cGMP binding. Lowering the ionic strength of the bathing solution enhanced potentiation, suggesting that it involves electrostatic interactions. The strong electrostatic effect on cGMP binding and absence of effect on ion permeation through open channels implies that the cGMP binding sites on the channel are well separated from the permeation pathway.

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