Currents flowing through single dihydropyridine-sensitive Ca2+ channels were recorded from cell-attached patches on C2 myotubes. In the presence of dihydropyridine agonist to prolong the duration of single-channel openings, adding micromolar concentrations of lanthanum (La), cerium (Ce), neodymium (Nd), gadolinium (Gd), dysprosium (Dy), or ytterbium (Yb) to patch electrodes containing 110 mM BaCl2 caused the unitary Ba2+ currents to fluctuate between fully open and shut states. The kinetics of channel blockade followed the predictions of a simple open channel block model in which the fluctuations of the single-channel current arose from the entry and exit of blocking ions from the pore. Entry rates for all the lanthanides tested were relatively insensitive to membrane potential, however, exit rates depended strongly on membrane potential increasing approximately e-fold per 23 mV with hyperpolarization. Individual lanthanide ions differed in both the absolute rates of ion entry and exit: entry rates decreased as cationic radius decreased; exit rates also decreased with cationic radius during the first part of the lanthanide series but then showed little change during the latter part of the series. Overall, the results support the idea that smaller ions enter the channel more slowly, presumably because they dehydrate more slowly; smaller ions also bind more tightly to a site within the channel pore, but lanthanide residence time within the channel approaches a maximum for the smaller cations with radii less than or equal to that of Ca2+.

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