In squid axons, internally applied ATP potentiates the magnitude of the potassium conductance and slows down its activation kinetics. This effect was characterized using internally dialyzed axons under voltage-clamp conditions. Both amplitude potentiation and kinetic slow-down effects are very selective towards ATP, other nucleotides like GTP and ITP are ineffective in millimolar concentrations. The current potentiation Km for ATP is near 10 microM with no further effects for concentrations greater than 100 microM. ATP effect is most likely produced via a phosphorylative reaction because Mg ion is an obligatory requirement and nonhydrolyzable ATP analogues are without effect. In the presence of ATP, the K current presents more delay, resembling a Cole-Moore effect due to local hyperpolarization of the channel. ATP effect induces a 10-20 mV shift in both activation and inactivation parameters towards more depolarized potentials. As a consequence of this shift, conductance-voltage curves with and without ATP cross at approximately -40 mV. This result is consistent with the hyperpolarization observed with ATP depletion, which is reversed by ATP addition. At potentials around the resting value, addition of ATP removes almost completely K current slow inactivation. It is suggested that a change in the amount of the slow inactivation is responsible for the differences in current amplitude with and without ATP, possibly as a consequence of the additional negative charge carried by the phosphate group. However, a modification of the local potential is not enough to explain completely the differences under the two conditions.

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