Inhibition of transmitter release by protons (H+) was studied at the frog neuromuscular junction at various extracellular concentrations of calcium ([Ca++]o) and potassium ([K+]o) by recording miniature end-plate potential (MEPP) frequency with the intracellular microelectrode. H+ decreased K+ -stimulated MEPP frequency. A double logarithmic graph of MEPP frequency at 7.5 mM K+ vs. [H+]o yielded a straight line with negative slope. At 10 mM K+, there was a parallel shift to the right of the graph. According to the surface charge model, K+ acts solely to depolarize the prejunctional membrane in accordance with the Nernst equation. By decreasing the prejunctional negative surface charge, H+ decreases K+ -stimulated MEPP frequency by decreasing [Ca++]o at the Ca++ channel. An estimated pKa of 4.20 may represent an acidic site at the Ca++ channel associated with Ca++ influx. As [Ca++]o increased above 1 mM for pH 7.40 and 10 mM K+, MEPP frequency decreased, i.e., the inhibitory component of dual effects of Ca++ occurred. At pH 6.40, the inhibitory component was abolished, unmasking the stimulatory effect of Ca++ on MEPP frequency. Reversal of Ca++ action by H+ could not be explained by surface charge theory alone. A double logarithmic graph of MEPP frequency vs. [K+]o at 8.5-10.5 mM was linear with a slope of 4. There were parallel shifts to the right of this graph for changes in pH from 7.40 to 6.90 and in [Ca++]o from 1 to 2.5 mM. These results are explained on the hypothesis that K+ also acts at an acidic prejunctional site to increase Ca++ -dependent quantal transmitter release. This action of K+ was inhibited by H+ and raised Ca++. Based on kinetic theory, the estimated pKa of the acidic prejunctional K+ site was 6.31. Based on free energy calculations, its cation preference was H+ greater than K+ greater than Ca++.

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