Patch-clamp studies were carried out in villus enterocytes isolated from the guinea pig proximal small intestine. In the whole-cell mode, outward K+ currents were found to be activated by depolarizing command pulses to -45 mV. The activation followed fourth order kinetics. The time constant of K+ current activation was voltage-dependent, decreasing from approximately 3 ms at -10 mV to 1 ms at +50 mV. The K+ current inactivated during maintained depolarizations by a voltage-independent, monoexponential process with a time constant of approximately 470 ms. If the interpulse interval was shorter than 30 s, cumulative inactivation was observed upon repeated stimulations. The steady state inactivation was voltage-dependent over the voltage range from -70 to -30 mV with a half inactivation voltage of -46 mV. The steady state activation was also voltage-dependent with a half-activation voltage of -22 mV. The K+ current profiles were not affected by chelation of cytosolic Ca2+. The K+ current induced by a depolarizing pulse was suppressed by extracellular application of TEA+, Ba2+, 4-aminopyridine or quinine with half-maximal inhibitory concentrations of 8.9 mM, 4.6 mM, 86 microM and 26 microM, respectively. The inactivation time course was accelerated by quinine but decelerated by TEA+, when applied to the extracellular (but not the intracellular) solution. Extracellular (but not intracellular) applications of verapamil and nifedipine also quickened the inactivation time course with 50% effective concentrations of 3 and 17 microM, respectively. Quinine, verapamil and nifedipine shifted the steady state inactivation curve towards more negative potentials. Outward single K+ channel events with a unitary conductance of approximately 8.4 pS were observed in excised inside-out patches of the basolateral membrane, when the patch was depolarized to -40 mV. The ensemble current rapidly activated and thereafter slowly inactivated with similar time constants to those of whole-cell K+ currents. It is concluded that the basolateral membrane of guinea pig villus enterocytes has a voltage-gated, time-dependent, Ca(2+)-insensitive, small-conductance K+ channel. Quinine, verapamil, and nifedipine accelerate the inactivation time course by affecting the inactivation gate from the external side of the cell membrane.

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