We examined the effects of Pandinus imperator scorpion venom on voltage-gated potassium channels in cultured clonal rat anterior pituitary cells (GH3 cells) using the gigohm-seal voltage-clamp method in the whole-cell configuration. We found that Pandinus venom blocks the voltage-gated potassium channels of GH3 cells in a voltage-dependent and dose-dependent manner. Crude venom in concentrations of 50-500 micrograms/ml produced 50-70% block of potassium currents measured at -20 mV, compared with 25-60% block measured at +50 mV. The venom both decreased the peak potassium current and shifted the voltage dependence of potassium current activation to more positive potentials. Pandinus venom affected potassium channel kinetics by slowing channel opening, speeding deactivation slightly, and increasing inactivation rates. Potassium currents in cells exposed to Pandinus venom did not recover control amplitudes or kinetics even after 20-40 min of washing with venom-free solution. The concentration dependence of crude venom block indicates that the toxins it contains are effective in the nanomolar range of concentrations. The effects of Pandinus venom were mimicked by zinc at concentrations less than or equal to 0.2 mM. Block of potassium current by zinc was voltage dependent and resembled Pandinus venom block, except that block by zinc was rapidly reversible. Since zinc is found in crude Pandinus venom, it could be important in the interaction of the venom with the potassium channel. We conclude that Pandinus venom contains toxins that bind tightly to voltage-dependent potassium channels in GH3 cells. Because of its high affinity for voltage-gated potassium channels and its irreversibility, Pandinus venom may be useful in the isolation, mapping, and characterization of voltage-gated potassium channels.

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