The voltage-dependent action of several scorpion alpha-toxins on Na channels was studied in toad myelinated nerve under voltage clamp. These toxins slow the declining phase of macroscopic Na current, apparently by inhibiting an irreversible channel inactivation step and thus permitting channels to reopen from a closed state in depolarized membranes. In this article, we describe the rapid reversal of alpha-toxin action by membrane depolarizations more positive than +20 mV, an effect not achieved by extensive washing. Depolarizations that were increasingly positive and of longer duration caused the toxin to dissociate faster and more completely, but only up to a limiting extent. Repetitive pulses had a cumulative effect equal to that of a single pulse lasting as long as their combined duration. When the membrane of a nonperfused fiber was repolarized, the effects of the toxin returned completely, but if the fiber was perfused during the conditioning procedure, recovery was incomplete and occurred more slowly, as it did at lower applied toxin concentrations. Other alpha-type toxins, from the scorpion Centruroides sculpturatus (IVa) and the sea anemone Anemonia sulcata (ATXII), exhibited similar voltage-dependent binding, though each had its own voltage range and dissociation rate. We suggest that the dissociation of the toxin molecule from the Na channel is coupled to the inactivation process. An equivalent valence for inactivation gating, of less than 1 e per channel, is calculated from the voltage-dependent change in toxin affinity.

This content is only available as a PDF.