Single stretch-activated ion channels were studied on the soma and primary dendrites of stretch receptor neurons of the crayfish Orconectes limosus. When the membrane of the patch was deformed by applying suction to the pipette, a marked nonlinear increase in single-channel activity could be observed in two types of channels. These were indistinguishable on the basis of their single-channel conductances but differed in their voltage range of activation. One type showed strong inward rectification (RSA channel) and the second type was largely voltage independent (SA channel). A linear relationship was found between negative pressure and the natural logarithm of the channels' open probability. For an e-fold change in pressure, the average sensitivity was 8.7 +/- 0.4 (SD, n = 5) mmHg for the RSA channel and 5.6 +/- 2.2 (n = 5) mmHg for the SA channel. Both channels were found to be permeable to mono- and divalent cations. Current-voltage relationships were linear with slope conductances for the SA channel of: 71 +/- 11 (SD, n = 3) pS for K+, 50 +/- 7.4 (n = 5) pS for Na+, and 23 pS for Ca++. Similar values were found for the RSA channel. The data suggest that the SA channel is responsible for the mechanotransduction process in the stretch receptor neuron.

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