We have studied the effects of the potassium-blocking agent 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) on the action potential and membrane currents of the sheep cardiac Purkinje fiber. 4-AP slowed the rate of phase 1 repolarization and shifted the plateau of the action potential to less negative potentials. In the presence of 4-AP, the substitution of sodium methylsulfate or methanesulfonate for the NaCl of Tyrode's solution further slowed the rate of phase 1 repolarization, even though chloride replacement has no effect on the untreated preparation. In voltage clamp experiments, 4-AP rapidly and reversibly reduced the early peak of outward current that is seen when the Purkinje fiber membrane is voltage-clamped to potentials positive to -20 mV. In addition, 4-AP reduced the steady outward current seen at the end of clamp steps positive to -40 mV. 4-AP did not appear to change the slow inward current observed over the range of -60 to -40 mV, nor did it greatly change the current tails that have been used as a measure of the slow inward conductance at more positive potentials. 4-AP did not block the inward rectifying potassium currents, IK1 and IK2. A phasic outward current component that was insensitive to 4-AP was reduced by chloride replacement. We conclude that the early outward current has two components: a chloride-sensitive component plus a 4-AP-sensitive component. Since a portion of the steady-state current was sensitive to 4-AP, the early outward current either does not fully inactivate or 4-AP blocks a component of time-independent background current.

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