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Modulation of K+ current by frequency and external [K+]: a tale of two inactivation mechanisms.

T Baukrowitz, G Yellen

Neuron, 1995 Oct , 15, 951-60

Voltage-activated K+ currents and their inactivation properties are important for controlling frequency-dependent signaling in neurons and other excitable cells. Two distinct molecular mechanisms for K+ channel inactivation have been described: N-type, which involves rapid occlusion of the open channel by an intracellular tethered blocker, and C-type, which involves a slower change at the extracellular mouth of the pore. We find that frequency-dependent cumulative inactivation of Shaker channels is very sensitive to changes of extracellular [K+] in the physiological range, with much more inactivation at low [K+]out, and that it results from the interaction of N- and C-type inactivation. N-type inactivation enhances C-type inactivation by two mechanisms. First, it inhibits outward K+ flux, which normally fills an external ion site and thus prevents C-type inactivation. Second, it keeps the channel's activation gate open even after repolarization, allowing C-type inactivation to occur for a prolonged period.