Steady-state availability of sodium channels. Interactions between activation and slow inactivation

Biophys J. 1992 Apr;61(4):941-55. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(92)81901-X.


Changes in holding potential (Vh), affect both gating charge (the Q(Vh) curve) and peak ionic current (the F(Vh) curve) seen at positive test potentials. Careful comparison of the Q(Vh) and F(Vh) distributions indicates that these curves are similar, having two slopes (approximately 2.5e for Vh from -115 to -90 mV and approximately 4e for Vh from -90 to -65 mV) and very negative midpoints (approximately -86 mV). Thus, gating charge movement and channel availability appear closely coupled under fully-equilibrated conditions. The time course by which channels approach equilibration was explored using depolarizing prepulses of increasing duration. The high slope component seen in the F(Vh) and Q(Vh) curves is not evident following short depolarizing prepulses in which the prepulse duration approximately corresponds to the settling time for fast inactivation. Increasing the prepulse duration to 10 ms or longer reveals the high slope, and left-shifts the midpoint to more negative voltages, towards the F(Vh) and Q(Vh) distributions. These results indicate that a separate slow-moving voltage sensor affects the channels at prepulse durations greater than 10 ms. Charge movement and channel availability remain closely coupled as equilibrium is approached using depolarizing pulses of increasing durations. Both measures are 50% complete by 50 ms at a prepulse potential of -70 mV, with proportionately faster onset rates when the prepulse potential is more depolarized. By contrast, charge movement and channel availability dissociate during recovery from prolonged depolarizations. Recovery of gating charge is considerably faster than recovery of sodium ionic current after equilibration at depolarized potentials. Recovery of gating charge at -140 mV, is 65% complete within approximately 100 ms, whereas less than 30% of ionic current has recovered by this time. Thus, charge movement and channel availability appear to be uncoupled during recovery, although both rates remain voltage sensitive. These data suggest that channels remain inactivated due to a separate process operating in parallel with the fast gating charge. We demonstrate that this behavior can be simulated by a model in which the fast charge movement associated with channel activation is electrostatically-coupled to a separate slow voltage sensor responsible for the slow inactivation of channel conductance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astacoidea
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Computer Simulation
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Models, Biological
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism*


  • Sodium Channels