The conduction properties of the alkaline earth divalent cations were determined in the purified sheep cardiac sarcoplasmic reticulum ryanodine receptor channel after reconstitution into planar phospholipid bilayers. Under bi-ionic conditions there was little difference in permeability among Ba2+, Ca2+, Sr2+, and Mg2+. However, there was a significant difference between the divalent cations and K+, with the divalent cations between 5.8- and 6.7-fold more permeant. Single-channel conductances were determined under symmetrical ionic conditions with 210 mM Ba2+ and Sr2+ and from the single-channel current-voltage relationship under bi-ionic conditions with 210 mM divalent cations and 210 mM K+. Single-channel conductance ranged from 202 pS for Ba2+ to 89 pS for Mg2+ and fell in the sequence Ba2+ greater than Sr2+ greater than Ca2+ greater than Mg2+. Near-maximal single-channel conductance is observed at concentrations as low as 2 mM Ba2+. Single-channel conductance and current measurements in mixtures of Ba(2+)-Mg2+ and Ba(2+)-Ca2+ reveal no anomalous behavior as the mole fraction of the ions is varied. The Ca(2+)-K+ reversal potential determined under bi-ionic conditions was independent of the absolute value of the ion concentrations. The data are compatible with the ryanodine receptor channel acting as a high conductance channel displaying moderate discrimination between divalent and monovalent cations. The channel behaves as though ion translocation occurs in single file with at most one ion able to occupy the conduction pathway at a time.

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