The interaction of Zn ion on Na channels was studied in squid giant axons. At a concentration of 30 mM Zn2+ slows opening kinetics of Na channels with almost no alteration of closing kinetics. The effects of Zn2+ can be expressed as a "shift" of the gating parameters along the voltage axis, i.e., the amount of additional depolarization required to overcome the Zn2+ effect. In these terms the mean shifts caused by 30 mM Zn2+ were +29.5 mV for Na channel opening (on) kinetics (t1/2 on), +2 mV for closing (off) kinetics (tau off), and +8.4 mV for the gNa-V curve. Zn2+ does not change the shape of the instantaneous I-V curve for inward current, but reduces it in amplitude by a factor of or approximately 0.67. Outward current is unaffected. Effects of Zn2+ on gating current (measured in the absence of TTX) closely parallel its actions on gNa. On gating current kinetics are shifted by +27.5 mV, off kinetics by +6 mV, and the Q-V distribution by +6.5 mV. Kinetic modeling shows that Zn2+ slows the forward rate constants in activation without affecting backward rate constants. More than one of the several steps in activation must be affected. The results are not compatible with the usual simple theory of uniform fixed surface charge. They suggest instead that Zn2+ is attracted by a negatively charged element of the gating apparatus that is present at the outer membrane surface at rest, and migrates inward on activation.

This content is only available as a PDF.