Molecular motion underlying activation and inactivation of sodium channels in squid giant axons

D. Landowne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Measurements of the changes in birefringence associated with changes in membrane potential were made with internally perfused squid giant axons in low sodium solutions at 0-8°C. The time course of the birefringence changes share many properties of the 'gating' (polarization) currents previously studied in this nerve. Both can be demonstrated as an asymmetry in the response to voltage pulses symmetrical about the resting potential which is not present about a hyperpolarized holding potential. Both have a rapid relaxation, which precedes the sodium permeability change. Both exhibit an initial delay or rising phase. Both are reversibly blocked by perfusion with 30 mm colchicine; neither are altered by changes on sodium concentrations or 300 nm tetrodotoxin. The birefringence response has a decrease in the amplitude of the rapid relaxation associated with the appearance of a slow relaxation. This is similar to the immobilization of fast gating charges which parallels sodium current inactivation. The amplitude of the birefringence and the gating current responses is consistent with a change in the alignment of several hundred peptide bonds per sodium channel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-185
Number of pages13
JournalThe Journal of Membrane Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1985


  • action potential
  • birefringence
  • colchicine
  • excitability
  • nerve impulse
  • optical retardation
  • sodium channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology
  • Biophysics


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