Whole-cell membrane currents were measured in isolated cat ventricular myocytes using a suction-electrode voltage-clamp technique. An inward-rectifying current was identified that exhibited a time-dependent activation. The peak current appeared to have a linear voltage dependence at membrane potentials negative to the reversal potential. Inward current was sensitive to K channel blockers. In addition, varying the extracellular K+ concentration caused changes in the reversal potential and slope conductance expected for a K+ current. The voltage dependence of the chord conductance exhibited a sigmoidal relationship, increasing at more negative membrane potentials. Increasing the extracellular K+ concentration increased the maximal level of conductance and caused a shift in the relationship that was directly proportional to the change in reversal potential. Activation of the current followed a monoexponential time course, and the time constant of activation exhibited a monoexponential dependence on membrane potential. Increasing the extracellular K+ concentration caused a shift of this relationship that was directly proportional to the change in reversal potential. Inactivation of inward current became evident at more negative potentials, resulting in a negative slope region of the steady state current-voltage relationship between -140 and -180 mV. Steady state inactivation exhibited a sigmoidal voltage dependence, and recovery from inactivation followed a monoexponential time course. Removing extracellular Na+ caused a decrease in the slope of the steady state current-voltage relationship at potentials negative to -140 mV, as well as a decrease of the conductance of inward current. It was concluded that this current was IK1, the inward-rectifying K+ current found in multicellular cardiac preparations. The K+ and voltage sensitivity of IK1 activation resembled that found for the inward-rectifying K+ currents in frog skeletal muscle and various egg cell preparations. Inactivation of IK1 in isolated ventricular myocytes was viewed as being the result of two processes: the first involves a voltage-dependent change in conductance; the second involves depletion of K+ from extracellular spaces. The voltage-dependent component of inactivation was associated with the presence of extracellular Na+.

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