Charge movement was measured in frog cut twitch fibers with the double Vaseline-gap technique. 25 microM tetracaine had very little effect on the maximum amounts of Q beta and Q gamma but slowed the kinetics of the I gamma humps in the ON segments of TEST-minus-CONTROL current traces, giving rise to biphasic transients in the difference traces. This concentration of tetracaine also shifted V gamma 3.7 (SEM 0.7) mV in the depolarizing direction, resulting in a difference Q-V plot that was bell-shaped with a peak at approximately -50 mV. 0.5-1.0 mM tetracaine suppressed the total amount of charge. The suppressed component had a sigmoidal voltage distribution with V = -56.6 (SEM 1.1) mV, k = 2.5 (SEM 0.5) mV, and qmax/cm = 9.2 (SEM 1.5) nC/microF, suggesting that the tetracaine-sensitive charge had a steep voltage dependence, a characteristic of the Q gamma component. An intermediate concentration (0.1-0.5 mM) of tetracaine shifted V gamma and partially suppressed the tetracaine-sensitive charge, resulting in a difference Q-V plot that rose to a peak and then decayed to a plateau level. Following a TEST pulse to greater than -60 mV, the slow inward current component during a post-pulse to approximately -60 mV was also tetracaine sensitive. The voltage distribution of the charge separated by tetracaine (method 1) was compared with those separated by three other existing methods: (a) the charge associated with the hump component separated by a sum of two kinetic functions from the ON segment of a TEST-minus-CONTROL current trace (method 2), (b) the steeply voltage-dependent component separated from a Q-V plot of the total charge by fitting with a sum of two Boltzmann distribution functions (method 3), and (c) the sigmoidal component separated from the Q-V plot of the final OFF charge obtained with a two-pulse protocol (method 4). The steeply voltage-dependent components separated by all four methods are consistent with each other, and are therefore concluded to be equivalent to the same Q gamma component. The shortcomings of each separation method are critically discussed. Since each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, it is recommended that, as much as possible, Q gamma should be separated by more than one method to obtain more reliable results.

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