Regulation of Na+ channels by neurotoxins has been studied in pinched-off nerve endings (synaptosomes) from rat brain. Activation of Na+ channels by the steroid batrachotoxin and by the alkaloid veratridine resulted in an increase in the rate of influx of 22Na into the synaptosomes. In the presence of 145 mM Na+, these agents also depolarized the synaptosomes, as indicated by increased fluorescence in the presence of a voltage-sensitive oxacarbocyanine dye [diO-C5(3)]. Polypeptide neurotoxins from the scorpion Leiurus quinquestriatus and from the sea anemone Anthopleura xanthogrammica potentiated the stimulatory effects of batrachotoxin and veratridine on the influx of 22Na into synaptosomes. Saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin blocked the stimulatory effects of batrachotoxin and veratridine, both in the presence and absence of the polypeptide toxins, but did not affect control 22Na influx or resting membrane potential. A three-state model for Na+ channel operation can account for the effects of these neurotoxins on Na+ channels as determined both by Na+ flux measurements in vitro and by electrophysiological experiments in intact nerve and muscle.

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