We have analyzed the gating kinetics of T-type Ca channels in 3T3 fibroblasts. Our results show that channel closing, inactivation, and recovery from inactivation each include a voltage-independent step which becomes rate limiting at extreme potentials. The data require a cyclic model with a minimum of two closed, one open, and two inactivated states. Such a model can produce good fits to our data even if the transitions between closed states are the only voltage-dependent steps in the activating pathway leading from closed to inactivated states. Our analysis suggests that the channel inactivation step, as well as the direct opening and closing transitions, are not intrinsically voltage sensitive. Single-channel recordings are consistent with this scheme. As expected, each channel produces a single burst per opening and then inactivates. Comparison of the kinetics of T-type Ca current in fibroblasts and neuronal cells reveals significant differences which suggest that different subtypes of T-type Ca channels are expressed differentially in a tissue specific manner.

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