Tetanic stimulation of skeletal muscle fibers elicits a train of spikes followed by a long-lasting depolarization called the late after-potential (LAP). We have conducted experiments to determine the origin of the LAP. Isolated single muscle fibers were treated with a high potassium solution (5 mM or 10 mM K) followed by a sudden reduction of potassium concentration to 2.5 mM. This procedure produced a slow repolarization (K repolarization), which reflects a diffusional outflow of potassium from inside the lumen of the transverse tubular system (T system). Tetanic stimulation was then applied to the same fiber and the LAP was recorded. The time courses of K repolarization and LAP decay were compared and found to be roughly the same. This approximate equality held under various conditions that changed the time courses of both events over a wide range. Both K repolarization and the LAP became slower as fiber radius increased. These results suggest that LAP decay and K repolarization represent the same process. Thus, we conclude that the LAP is caused by potassium accumulation in the T system. A consequence of this conclusion is that delayed rectification channels exist in the T system. A rough estimation suggests that the density of delayed rectification channels is less in the T system than in the surface membrane.

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