Nonlinear or asymmetric charge movement was recorded from single ventricular myocytes cultured from 17-d-old embryonic chick hearts using the whole-cell patch clamp method. The myocytes were exposed to the appropriate intracellular and extracellular solutions designed to block Na+, Ca2+, and K+ ionic currents. The linear components of the capacity and leakage currents during test voltage steps were eliminated by adding summed, hyperpolarizing control step currents. Upon depolarization from negative holding potentials the nonlinear charge movement was composed of two distinct and separable kinetic components. An early rapidly decaying component (decay time constant range: 0.12-0.50 ms) was significant at test potentials positive to -70 mV and displayed saturation above 0 mV (midpoint -35 mV; apparent valence 1.6 e-). The early ON charge was partially immobilized during brief (5 ms) depolarizing test steps and was more completely immobilized by the application of less negative holding potentials. A second slower-decaying component (decay time constant range: 0.88-3.7 ms) was activated at test potentials positive to -60 mV and showed saturation above +20 mV (midpoint -13 mV, apparent valence 1.9 e-). The second component of charge movement was immobilized by long duration (5 s) holding potentials, applied over a more positive voltage range than those that reduced the early component. The voltage dependencies for activation and inactivation of the Na+ and Ca2+ ionic currents were determined for myocytes in which these currents were not blocked. There was a positive correlation between the voltage dependence of activation and inactivation of the Na+ and Ca2+ ionic currents and the activation and immobilization of the fast and slow components of charge movement. These complementary kinetic and steady-state properties lead to the conclusion that the two components of charge movement are associated with the voltage-sensitive conformational changes that precede Na+ and Ca2+ channel openings.

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