The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 88, Issue 2, pp 173–185 | Cite as

Molecular motion underlying activation and inactivation of sodium channels in squid giant axons

  • D. Landowne


Measurements of the changes in birefringence associated with changes in membrane potential were made with internally perfused squid giant axons in low sodium solutions at 0–8°C. The time course of the birefringence changes share many properties of the ‘gating’ (polarization) currents previously studied in this nerve. Both can be demonstrated as an asymmetry in the response to voltage pulses symmetrical about the resting potential which is not present about a hyperpolarized holding potential. Both have a rapid relaxation, which precedes the sodium permeability change. Both exhibit an initial delay or rising phase. Both are reversibly blocked by perfusion with 30mm colchicine; neither are altered by changes on sodium concentrations or 300nm tetrodotoxin. The birefringence response has a decrease in the amplitude of the rapid relaxation associated with the appearance of a slow relaxation. This is similar to the immobilization of fast gating charges which parallels sodium current inactivation.

The amplitude of the birefringence and the gating current responses is consistent with a change in the alignment of several hundred peptide bonds per sodium channel.

Key Words

birefringence optical retardation nerve impulse action potential sodium channels excitability colchicine 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Landowne
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physiology and BiophysicsUniversity of Miami School of MedicineMiami
  2. 2.Marine Biological LaboratoryWoods Hole

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