Bovine pancreatic trypsin inhibitor (BPTI) is a 58-residue basic peptide that is a representative member of a widely distributed class of serine protease inhibitors known as Kunitz inhibitors. BPTI is also homologous to dendrotoxin peptides from mamba snake venom that have been characterized as inhibitors of various types of voltage-dependent K+ channels. In this study we compared the effect of DTX-I, a dendrotoxin peptide, and BPTI on large conductance Ca(2+)-activated K+ channels from rat skeletal muscle using planar bilayer methodology. As previously found for DTX-I (1990. Neuron. 2:141-148), BPTI induces the appearance of distinct subconductance events when present on the internal side of maxi K(Ca) channels. The single channel kinetics of substate formation follow the predictions of reversible binding of the peptide to a single site or class of sites with a Kd of 4.6 microM at 0 mV and 50 mM symmetrical KCl. The apparent association rate of BPTI binding decreases approximately 1,000-fold per 10-fold increase in ionic strength, suggestive of a strong electrostatic interaction between the basic peptide and negative surface charge in the vicinity of the binding site. The equilibrium Kd for BPTI and DTX-I is also voltage dependent, decreasing e-fold per 30 mV of depolarization. The unitary subconductance current produced by BPTI binding exhibits strong inward rectification in the presence of symmetrical KCl, corresponding to 15% of open channel current at +60 mV and 70% of open state at -40 mV. In competition experiments, the internal pore-blocking ions, Ba2+ and TEA+, readily block the substate with the same affinity as that for blocking the normal open state. These results suggest that BPTI does not bind near the inner mouth of the channel so as to directly interfere with cation entry to the channel. Rather, the mechanism of substate production appears to involve a conformational change that affects the energetics of K+ permeation.

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