Time-irreversible subconductance gating associated with Ba2+ block of large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels

Ricardo A. Bello, Karl L. Magleby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Ba2+ block of large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels was studied in patches of membrane excised from cultures of rat skeletal muscle using the patch clamp technique. Under conditions in which a blocking Ba2+ ion would dissociate to the external solution (150 mM N-methyl-D- glucamine+(o), 500 mM K+(i), 10 μM Ba2+(i), +30 mV, and 100 μM Ca2+(i) to fully activate the channel), Ba2+ blocks with a mean duration of ~2 s occurred, on average, once every ~100 ms of channel open time. Of these Ba2+ blocks, 78% terminated with a single step in the current to the fully open level and 22% terminated with a transition to a subconductance level at ~0.26 of the fully open level (preopening) before stepping to the fully open level. Only one apparent preclosing was observed in ~10,000 Ba2+ blocks. Thus, the preopenings represent Ba2+-induced time- irreversible subconductance gating. The fraction of Ba2+ blocks terminating with a preopening and the duration of preopenings (exponentially distributed, mean = 0.75 ms) appeared independent of changes in [Ba2+](i) or membrane potential. The fractional conductance of the preopenings increased from 0.24 at +10 mV to 0.39 at +90 mV. In contrast, the average subconductance level during the normal gating in the absence of Ba2+ was independent of membrane potential, suggesting different mechanisms for preopenings and normal subconductance levels. Preopenings were also observed with 10 mM Ba2+(o) and no added Ba2+(i). Adding K+, Rb+, or Na+ to the external solution decreased the fraction of Ba2+ blocks with preopenings, with K+ and Rb+ being more effective than Na+. These results are consistent with models in which the blocking Ba2+ ion either induces a preopening gate, and then dissociates to the external solution, or moves to a site located on the external side of the Ba2+ blocking site and acts directly as the preopening gate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-362
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Asymmetric gating
  • Barium block
  • Microscopic reversibility
  • Preopening
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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