Voltage clamp studies with the squid giant axon have shown that changes in the external calcium concentration (Frankenhaeuser and Hodgkin, 1957) shift the sodium and potassium conductance versus membrane potential curves along the potential axis. Taylor (1959) found that procaine acts primarily by reducing the sodium and, to a lesser extent, the potassium conductances. Both procaine and increased calcium also delay the turning on of the sodium conductance mechanism. Calcium and procaine have similar effects on lobster giant axon. In addition, we have observed that the magnitude of the response to procaine is influenced by the external calcium concentration. Increasing external calcium tends to reduce the effectiveness of procaine in decreasing sodium conductance. Conversely, procaine is more effective in reducing the membrane conductance if external calcium is decreased. The amplitude of the nerve action potential reflects these conductance changes in that, for example, reductions in amplitude resulting from the addition of procaine to the medium are partially restored by increasing external calcium, as was first noted by Aceves and Machne (1963). These phenomena suggest that calcium and procaine compete with one another with respect to their actions on the membrane conductance mechanism. The fact that procaine and its analogues compete with calcium for binding to phospholipids in vitro (Feinstein, 1964) suggests that the concept of competitive binding to phospholipids may provide a useful model for interpreting these data.

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