A pair of tyrosine residues, located on the cytoplasmic linker between the third and fourth domains of human heart sodium channels, plays a critical role in the kinetics and voltage dependence of inactivation. Substitution of these residues by glutamine (Y1494Y1495/QQ), but not phenylalanine, nearly eliminates the voltage dependence of the inactivation time constant measured from the decay of macroscopic current after a depolarization. The voltage dependence of steady state inactivation and recovery from inactivation is also decreased in YY/QQ channels. A characteristic feature of the coupling between activation and inactivation in sodium channels is a delay in development of inactivation after a depolarization. Such a delay is seen in wild-type but is abbreviated in YY/QQ channels at -30 mV. The macroscopic kinetics of activation are faster and less voltage dependent in the mutant at voltages more negative than -20 mV. Deactivation kinetics, by contrast, are not significantly different between mutant and wild-type channels at voltages more negative than -70 mV. Single-channel measurements show that the latencies for a channel to open after a depolarization are shorter and less voltage dependent in YY/QQ than in wild-type channels; however the peak open probability is not significantly affected in YY/QQ channels. These data demonstrate that rate constants involved in both activation and inactivation are altered in YY/QQ channels. These tyrosines are required for a normal coupling between activation voltage sensors and the inactivation gate. This coupling insures that the macroscopic inactivation rate is slow at negative voltages and accelerated at more positive voltages. Disruption of the coupling in YY/QQ alters the microscopic rates of both activation and inactivation.

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