We studied the pH dependence of the proton-induced current fluctuations that appear in single open L-type Ca channels when monovalent ions are the charge carriers. We used different methods of analysis to obtain kinetic measurements even under conditions where the individual transitions were too fast to be resolved directly as discrete current steps between two conductance levels. The reciprocal of the dwell times at the high conductance level increased linearly with the pipette proton activity, with a slope that was similar for Cs, K, and Na as permeant ions. Contrary to the expectation for a simple model in which the high and low conductances represent the unprotonated and protonated states of the channel, respectively, the dwell times at the low conductance level were also pH dependent and lengthened with increasing proton activity. At all pH values the dwell times at the low conductance level were longest with Cs as permeant ion and shortened in the order Cs greater than K greater than Na. We introduce a more general model of the protonation cycle in which the channel is represented by four states and can be protonated and deprotonated both at the high and low conductance levels. The conductance change is represented by a conformational change of the channel protein. We discuss the validity of this model and its implications for the mechanism by which protons interact with ion permeation through L-type Ca channels.

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