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J Physiol. 1997 Feb 15;499 ( Pt 1):3-15.

Shaker B K+ conductance in Na+ solutions lacking K+ ions: a remarkably stable non-conducting state produced by membrane depolarizations.

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Department of Molecular Recognition and Structural Biology, Institute of Biotechnology/UNAM, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.


1. Shaker B K+ channels, expressed in the insect cell line Sf9, were studied in zero K+, Na+ or N-methyl-D-glucamine (NMG)-containing solutions. In the absence of K+ ions on both sides of the membrane, the K+ conductance collapsed with the delivery of short depolarizing pulses that activated the channels. The collapse of the conductance was fully prevented when the channels were kept closed at a holding potential of -80 mV. 2. The fall in K+ conductance had the notable characteristic of being strikingly stable. At -80 mV or more negative holding potentials, the conductance never recovered (cells observed for up to 1 h). 3. The extent of collapse of the K+ conductance depended on the number of depolarizing activating pulses applied in zero K+ solutions. For moderate to low frequencies of pulsing (1 to 0.002 Hz), the extent of the collapse did not depend on the frequency. 4. K+, Rb+, Cs+ and NH4+ added to the external Na+ solution impeded the fall in K+ conductance. 5. TEA added to the external, zero K+, Na(+)-containing solution also precluded the fall of the conductance. The protection by TEA paralleled its block of the outward K+ currents recorded with standard recording solutions. 6. The fall in K+ conductance was prevented by depolarized holding potentials. 7. The K+ conductance that was thought to be irreversibly lost at -80 mV or more negative holding potentials was fully recovered, however, after a prolonged (tens of seconds to minutes) change in the holding potential to depolarized values (above -50 mV). Full recovery could be obtained at any time after the former halt of the conductance.

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