Immobilization of Paramecium followed the binding of antibodies to the major proteins of the ciliary membrane (the immobilization antigens, i-antigens, approximately 250,000 mol wt). Immunoelectron microscopy showed this binding to be serotype-specific and to occur over the entire cell surface. Antibody binding also reduced the current through the Ca-channel of the excitable ciliary membrane as monitored using a voltage-clamp. The residual Ca-current appeared normal in its voltage sensitivity and kinetics. As a secondary consequence of antibody binding, the Ca-induced K-current was also reduced. The resting membrane characteristics and other activatable currents, however, were not significantly altered by the antibody treatment. Since monovalent fragments of the antibodies also reduced the current but did not immobilize the cell, the electrophysiological effects were not the secondary consequences of immobilization. Antibodies against the second most abundant family of proteins (42,000-45,000 mol wt) had similar electrophysiological effects as revealed by experiments in which the Paramecia and the serum were heterologous with respect to the i-antigen but homologous with respect to the 42,000-45,000-mol-wt proteins. Protease treatment, shown to remove the surface antigen, also caused a reduction of the Ca-inward current. The loss of the inward Ca-current does not seem to be due to a drop in the driving force for Ca++ entry since increasing the external Ca++ or reducing the internal Ca++ (through EGTA injection) did not restore the current. Here we discuss the possibilities that (a) the major proteins define the functional environment of the Ca-channel and that (b) the Ca-channel is more susceptible to certain general changes in the membrane.

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