Na inactivation was studied in Myxicola (two-pulse procedure, 6-ms gap between conditioning and test pulses). Inactivation developed with an initial delay (range 130-817 microseconds) followed by a simple exponential decline (time constant tau c). Delays (deviations from a simple exponential) are seen only for brief conditioning pulses were gNa is slightly activated. Hodgkin-Huxley kinetics with series resistance, Rs, predict deviations from a simple exponential only for conditioning pulses that substantially activate gNa. Reducing INa fivefold (Tris substitution) had no effect on either tau c or delay. Delay in not generated by Rs or by contamination from activation development. The slowest time constant in Na tails is approximately 1 ms (Goldman and Hahin, 1978) and the gap was 6 ms. Shortening the gap to 2 ms had no effect on either tau c or delay. Delay is a true property of the channel. Delay decreased with more positive conditioning potentials, and also decreased approximately proportionally with time to peak gNa during the conditioning pulse, as expected for sequentially coupled activation and inactivation. In a few cases the difference between Na current values for brief conditioning pulses and the tau c exponential could be measured. Difference values decayed exponentially with time constant tau m. The inactivation time course is described by a model that assumes a process with the kinetics of gNa activation as a precursor to inactivation.

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