The kinetic properties of the closing of Na channels were studied in frog skeletal muscle to obtain information about the dependence of channel closing on the past history of the channel. Channel closing was studied in normal and modified channels. Chloramine-T was used to modify the channels so that inactivation was virtually removed. A series of depolarizing prepulse potentials was used to activate Na channels, and a -140-mV postpulse was used to monitor the closing of the channels. Unmodified channels decay via a biexponential process with time constants of 72 and 534 microseconds at 12 degrees C. The observed time constants do not depend upon the potential used to activate the channels. The contribution of the slow component to the total decay increases as the activating prepulse is lengthened. After inactivation is removed, the biexponential character of the decay is retained, with no change in the magnitude of the time constants. However, increases in the duration of the activating prepulse over the range where the current is maximal 1-75 ms) produce identical biexponential decays. The presence of biexponential decays suggests that either two subtypes of Na channels are found in muscle, or Na channels can exist in one of two equally conductive states. The time-invariant decays observed suggest that channel closure does not depend upon their past history.

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