We have studied mu-conotoxin (mu-CTX) block of rat skeletal muscle sodium channel (rSkM1) currents in which single amino acids within the pore (P-loop) were substituted with cysteine. Among 17 cysteine mutants expressed in Xenopus oocytes, 7 showed significant alterations in sensitivity to mu-CTX compared to wild-type rSkM1 channel (IC50 = 17.5 +/- 2.8 nM). E758C and D1241C were less sensitive to mu-CTX block (IC50 = 220 +/- 39 nM and 112 +/- 24 nM, respectively), whereas the tryptophan mutants W402C, W1239C, and W1531C showed enhanced mu-CTX sensitivity (IC50 = 1.9 +/- 0.1, 4.9 +/- 0.9, and 5.5 +/- 0.4 nM, respectively). D400C and Y401C also showed statistically significant yet modest (approximately twofold) changes in sensitivity to mu-CTX block compared to WT (p < 0.05). Application of the negatively charged, sulfhydryl-reactive compound methanethiosulfonate-ethylsulfonate (MTSES) enhanced the toxin sensitivity of D1241C (IC50 = 46.3 +/- 12 nM) while having little effect on E758C mutant channels (IC50 = 199.8 +/- 21.8 nM). On the other hand, the positively charged methanethiosulfonate-ethylammonium (MTSEA) completely abolished the mu-CTX sensitivity of E758C (IC50 > 1 microM) and increased the IC50 of D1241C by about threefold. Applications of MTSEA, MTSES, and the neutral MTSBN (benzyl methanethiosulfonate) to the tryptophan-to-cysteine mutants partially or fully restored the wild-type mu-CTX sensitivity, suggesting that the bulkiness of the tryptophan's indole group is a determinant of toxin binding. In support of this suggestion, the blocking IC50 of W1531A (7.5 +/- 1.3 nM) was similar to W1531C, whereas W1531Y showed reduced toxin sensitivity (14.6 +/- 3.5 nM) similar to that of the wild-type channel. Our results demonstrate that charge at positions 758 and 1241 are important for mu-CTX toxin binding and further suggest that the tryptophan residues within the pore in domains I, III, and IV negatively influence toxin-channel interaction.