To probe the structure-function relationships of voltage-dependent sodium channels, we have been examining the mechanisms of channel modification by batrachotoxin (BTX), veratridine (VTD), and grayanotoxin-I (GTX), investigating the unifying mechanisms that underlie the diverse modifications of this class of neurotoxins. In this paper, highly purified sodium channel polypeptides from the electric organ of the electric eel were incorporated into planar lipid bilayers in the presence of GTX for comparison with our previous studies of BTX (Recio-Pinto, E., D. S. Duch, S. R. Levinson, and B. W. Urban. 1987. J. Gen. Physiol. 90:375-395) and VTD (Duch, D. S., E. Recio-Pinto, C. Frenkel, S. R. Levinson, and B. W. Urban. 1989. J. Gen. Physiol. 94:813-831) modifications. GTX-modified channels had a single channel conductance of 16 pS. An additional large GTX-modified open state (40-55 pS) was found which occurred in bursts correlated with channel openings and closings. Two voltage-dependent processes controlling the open time of these modified channels were characterized: (a) a concentration-dependent removal of inactivation analogous to VTD-modified channels, and (b) activation gating similar to BTX-modified channels, but occurring at more hyperpolarized potentials. The voltage dependence of removal of inactivation correlated with parallel voltage-dependent changes in the estimated K1/2 of VTD and GTX modifications. Ranking either the single channel conductances or the depolarization required for 50% activation, the same sequence is obtained: unmodified > BTX > GTX > VTD. The efficacy of the toxins as activators follows the same ranking (Catterall, W. A. 1977. J. Biol. Chem. 252:8669-8676).

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