Inactivation of Voltage-Gated Cardiac K+ Channels

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Inactivation is the process by which an open channel enters a stable nonconducting conformation after a depolarizing change in membrane potential. Inactivation is a widespread property of many different types of voltage-gated ion channels. Recent advances in the molecular biology of K+ channels have elucidated two mechanistically distinct types of inactivation, N-type and C-type. N-type inactivation involves occlusion of the intracellular mouth of the pore through binding of a short segment of residues at the extreme N-terminal. In contrast to this “tethered ball” mechanism of N-type inactivation, C-type inactivation involves movement of conserved core domain residues that result in closure of the external mouth of the pore. Although C-type inactivation can show rapid kinetics that approach those observed for N-type inactivation, it is often thought of as a slowly developing and slowly recovering process. Current models of C-type inactivation also suggest that this process involves a relatively localized change in conformation of residues near the external mouth of the permeation pathway. The rate of C-type inactivation and recovery can be strongly influenced by other factors, such as N-type inactivation, drug binding, and changes in [K+]o. These interactions make C-type inactivation an important biophysical process in determining such physiologically important properties as refractoriness and drug binding. C-type inactivation is currently viewed as arising from small-scale rearrangements at the external mouth of the pore. This review will examine the multiplicity of interactions of C-type inactivation with N-terminal-mediated inactivation and drug binding that suggest that our current view of C-type inactivation is incomplete. This review will suggest that C-type inactivation must involve larger-scale movements of transmembrane-spanning domains and that such movements contribute to the diversity of kinetic properties observed for C-type inactivation. (Circ Res. 1998;82:739-750.)

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