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Biophys J. 1998 Oct;75(4):1828-35.

Loss of shaker K channel conductance in 0 K+ solutions: role of the voltage sensor.

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Department of Physiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.


In potassium-free solutions some types of K channels enter a long-lasting nonconducting or "defunct" state. It is known that Shaker K channels must open in K+-free solutions to become defunct. Gating current studies presented here indicate an abnormal conformation in the defunct state that restricts S4 movement and alters its kinetics. Thus an abnormality initiated in the P region spreads to the gating apparatus. We find that channels most readily become defunct on repolarization to an intermediate voltage, thus prolonging occupancy of one of the several intermediate closed states. The state dependence of becoming defunct was further dissected by using the gating mutant L382A. Simply closing this channel at 0 mV (reversing the last activation step) does not make the mutant channel defunct. Instead, it is necessary to move further left (more fully closed) in the activation sequence. This was confirmed with ShIR experiments showing that channels become defunct only if there is inward gating charge movement. Rapid transit through the intermediate states, achieved at very negative voltage, is relatively ineffective at making channels defunct. Several mutations that removed C-type inactivation also made the channels resistant to becoming defunct. Our results show that normal gating current cannot be stably recorded in the absence of K+.

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