The Ca2+ current activated upon hyperpolarization of Paramecium tetraurelia decays over a period of 150-200 ms during sustained steps under voltage clamp. At membrane potentials between -70 and approximately -100 mV, the time course of this inactivation is described by a single exponential function. Steps negative to approximately -100 mV elicit currents that decay biexponentially, however. Three lines of evidence suggest that this current's inactivation is a function of intracellular Ca2+ concentration rather than membrane potential: (a) Comparing currents with similar amplitudes but elicited at widely differing membrane potentials suggests that their time course of decay is a sole function of inward current magnitude. (b) The extent of current inactivation is correlated with the amount of Ca2+ entering the cell during hyperpolarization. (c) The onset and time course of recovery from inactivation can be hastened significantly by injecting cells with EGTA. We suggest that the decay of this current during hyperpolarization involves a Ca(2+)-dependent pathway.

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