We have observed the opening and closing of single batrachotoxin (BTX)-modified sodium channels in neuroblastoma cells using the patch-clamp method. The conductance of a single BTX-modified channel is approximately 10 pS. At a given membrane potential, the channels are open longer than are normal sodium channels. As is the case for normal sodium channels, the open dwell times become longer as the membrane is depolarized. For membrane potentials more negative than about -70 mV, histograms of both open-state dwell times and closed-state dwell times could be fit by single exponentials. For more depolarized potentials, although the open-state histograms could still be fit by single exponentials, the closed-state histograms required two exponentials. This data together with macroscopic voltage clamp data on the same system could be accounted for by a three-state closed-closed-open model with transition rates between these states that are exponential functions of membrane potential. One of the implications of this model, in agreement with experiment, is that there are always some closed BTX-modified sodium channels, regardless of membrane potential.
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