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J Gen Physiol. 1977 December 1; 70(6): 707–724.
PMCID: PMC2228512

Sodium ions as blocking agents and charge carriers in the potassium channel of the squid giant axon


Instantaneous K channel current-voltage (I-V) relations were determined by using internally perfused squid axons. When K was the only internal cation, the I-V relation was linear for outward currents at membrane potentials up to +240 mV inside. With 25-200 mM Na plus 300 mM K in the internal solution, an N-shaped I-V curve was seen. Voltage-dependent blocking of the K channels by Na produces a region of negative slope in the I-V plot (F. Bezanilla and C. M. Armstrong. 1972. J. Gen Physiol, 60: 588). At higher voltages (greater than or equal to 160 mV) we observed a second region of increasing current and a decrease in the fraction of the K conductance blocked by Na. Internal tetraethylammonium (TEA) ions blocked currents over the whole voltage range. In a second series of experiments with K-free, Na-containing internal solutions, the I-V curve turned sharply upward about +160 mV. The current at high voltages increased with increasing internal Na concentration was largely blocked by internal TEA. These data suggest that the K channel becomes substantially more permeable to Na at high voltages. This change is apparently responsible for the relief, at high transmembrane voltages, of the blocking effect seen in axons perfused with Na plus K mixtures. Each time a Na ion passed through, vacating the blocking site, the channel would transiently allow K ions to pass through freely.

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