The effects of batrachotoxin (BTX) on the membrane potential and conductances of squid giant axons have been studied by means of intracellular microelectrode recording, internal perfusion, and voltage clamp techniques. BTX (550–1100 nM) caused a marked and irreversible depolarization of the nerve membrane, the membrane potential being eventually reversed in polarity by as much as 15 mv. The depolarization progressed more rapidly with internal application than with external application of BTX to the axon. External application of tetrodotoxin (1000 nM) completely restored the BTX depolarization. Removal or drastic reduction of external sodium caused a hyperpolarization of the BTX-poisoned membrane. However, no change in the resting membrane potential occurred when BTX was applied in the absence of sodium ions in both external and internal phases. These observations demonstrate that BTX specifically increases the resting sodium permeability of the squid axon membrane. Despite such an increase in resting sodium permeability, the BTX-poisoned membrane was still capable of undergoing a large sodium permeability increase of normal magnitude upon depolarizing stimulation provided that the membrane potential was brought back to the original or higher level. The possibility that a single sodium channel is operative for both the resting sodium, permeability and the sodium permeability increase upon stimulation is discussed.

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