The blocking actions of Fe2+, Co2+, and Ni2+ on unitary currents carried by Ba2+ through single dihydropyridine-sensitive Ca2+ channels were recorded from cell-attached patches on myotubes from the mouse C2 cell line. Adding millimolar concentrations of blocker to patch electrodes containing 110 mM BaCl2 produced discrete excursions to the closed channel level. The kinetics of blocking and unblocking were well described with a simple model of open channel block. Hyperpolarization speeded the exit of all of the blockers from the channel, as expected if the blocking site resides within the pore. The block by Ni2+ differs from that produced by Fe2+ and Co2+ because Ni2+ enters the channel approximately 20 times more slowly and exits approximately 50 times more slowly. Ni2+ also differs from the other transition metals because at millimolar concentrations it reduces the amplitude of the unitary current in a concentration-dependent manner. The results are consistent with the idea that the rate-limiting step for ion entry into the channel is water loss at its inner coordination sphere; unblocking, on the other hand, cannot be explained in terms of simple coulombic interactions arising from differences in ion size.

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