A pair of conserved methionine residues, located on the cytoplasmic linker between segments S4 and S5 in the fourth domain of human heart Na channels (hH1), plays a role in the kinetics and voltage dependence of inactivation. Substitution of these residues by either glutamine (M1651M1652/QQ) or alanine (MM/AA) increases the inactivation time constant (tau) at depolarized voltages, shifts steady-state inactivation (h infinity) in a depolarized direction, and decreases the time constant for recovery from inactivation. The data indicate that the mutations affect the rate constants for both binding and unbinding of a hypothetical inactivation particle from its binding site. Cytoplasmic application of the pentapeptide KIFMK in Na channels mutated to remove inactivation produces current decays resembling inactivation (Eaholtz, G., T. Scheuer, and W.A. Catterall. 1994. Neuron. 12: 1041-1048.). KIFMK produces a concentration-dependent, voltage-independent increase in the decay rate of MM/QQ and MM/AA currents at positive membrane potentials (Ki approximately 30 microM), while producing only a small increase in the decay rate of wild-type currents at a concentration of 200 microM. Although MM/QQ inactivates approximately 2.5-fold faster than MM/AA in the absence of peptide, the estimated rate constants for peptide block and unblock do not differ in these mutants. External Na+ ions antagonize the block by cytoplasmic KIFMK of MM/AA channels, but not the inactivation kinetics of this mutant in the absence of peptide. The effect of external [Na+] is interpreted as a voltage-dependent knock-off mechanism. The data provide evidence that KIFMK can only block channels when they are open and that peptide block does not mimic the inactivation process.

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