Inside-out patches were excised from catfish rod or cone outer segments. Single channel and macroscopic currents were recorded from GMP-gated channels activated by 1 mM cGMP in low divalent buffered saline. Currents were blocked by the application of micromolar concentrations of l-cis-diltiazem to the cytoplasmic side of the patch. The concentration dependence of block indicated that a single molecule was sufficient to block a channel and that all channels were susceptible to block. The dissociation constant for the rod channel was an order of magnitude smaller than for the cone channel, but the voltage dependence of block was nearly identical. The macroscopic current-voltage relation in the presence of blocker was inwardly rectifying and superficially resembled voltage-dependent block by an impermeant blocker occluding the ion-conducting pore of the channel. Block by diltiazem acting from the extracellular side of the channel was investigated by including 5 microM diltiazem in the recording pipette solution. The macroscopic current-voltage relation again showed inward rectification, inconsistent with the idea that diltiazem acts by occluding the pore at the external side. The kinetics of block by diltiazem applied to the intra- and extracellular side were measured in cone patches containing only a single channel. The unbinding rates were similar in both cases, suggesting a single binding site. Differences in the binding rate were consistent with greater accessibility to the binding site from the cytoplasmic side. Block from the cytoplasmic side was independent of pH, suggesting that the state of ionization of diltiazem was not related to its ability to block the channel in a voltage-dependent fashion. These observations are inconsistent with a pore-occluding blocker, but could be explained if the hydrophobic portion of diltiazem partitioned into the hydrophobic core of the channel protein, perhaps altering the gating of the channel.

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