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Ba2+ currents through L-type Ca2+ channels were recorded from cell-attached patches on mouse pancreatic beta cells. In 10 mM Ba2+, single-channel currents were recorded at -70 mV, the beta cell resting membrane potential. This suggests that Ca2+ influx at negative membrane potentials may contribute to the resting intracellular Ca2+ concentration and thus to basal insulin release. Increasing external Ba2+ increased the single-channel current amplitude and shifted the current-voltage relation to more positive potentials. This voltage shift could be modeled by assuming that divalent cations both screen and bind to surface charges located at the channel mouth. The single-channel conductance was related to the bulk Ba2+ concentration by a Langmuir isotherm with a dissociation constant (Kd(gamma)) of 5.5 mM and a maximum single-channel conductance (gamma max) of 22 pS. A closer fit to the data was obtained when the barium concentration at the membrane surface was used (Kd(gamma) = 200 mM and gamma max = 47 pS), which suggests that saturation of the concentration-conductance curve may be due to saturation of the surface Ba2+ concentration. Increasing external Ba2+ also shifted the voltage dependence of ensemble currents to positive potentials, consistent with Ba2+ screening and binding to membrane surface charge associated with gating. Ensemble currents recorded with 10 mM Ca2+ activated at more positive potentials than in 10 mM Ba2+, suggesting that external Ca2+ binds more tightly to membrane surface charge associated with gating. The perforated-patch technique was used to record whole-cell currents flowing through L-type Ca2+ channels. Inward currents in 10 mM Ba2+ had a similar voltage dependence to those recorded at a physiological Ca2+ concentration (2.6 mM). BAY-K 8644 (1 microM) increased the amplitude of the ensemble and whole-cell currents but did not alter their voltage dependence. Our results suggest that the high divalent cation solutions usually used to record single L-type Ca2+ channel activity produce a positive shift in the voltage dependence of activation (approximately 32 mV in 100 mM Ba2+).

Original publication




Journal article


J Gen Physiol

Publication Date





767 - 797


3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester, Animals, Barium, Calcium, Calcium Channels, Cells, Cultured, Culture Media, Electrophysiology, Ion Channel Gating, Islets of Langerhans, Membrane Potentials, Mice, Models, Biological, Sodium