The effects of n-alkylguanidine derivatives on sodium channel conductance were measured in voltage clamped, internally perfused squid giant axons. After destruction of the sodium inactivation mechanism by internal pronase treatment, internal application of n-amylguanidine (0.5 mM) or n-octylguanidine (0.03 mM) caused a time-dependent block of sodium channels. No time-dependent block was observed with shorter chain derivatives. No change in the rising phase of sodium current was seen and the block of steady-state sodium current was independent of the membrane potential. In axons with intact sodium inactivation, an apparent facilitation of inactivation was observed after application of either n-amylguanidine or n-octylguanidine. These results can be explained by a model in which alkylguanidines enter and occlude open sodium channels from inside the membrane with voltage-independent rate constants. Alkylguanidine block bears a close resemblance to natural sodium inactivation. This might be explained by the fact that alkylguanidines are related to arginine, which has a guanidino group and is thought to be an essential amino acid in the molecular mechanism of sodium inactivation. A strong correlation between alkyl chain length and blocking potency was found, suggesting that a hydrophobic binding site exists near the inner mouth of the sodium channel.

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