An assumption usually made when developing kinetic models for the gating of ion channels is that the transitions among the various states involved in the gating obey microscopic reversibility. If this assumption is incorrect, then the models and estimated rate constants made with the assumption would be in error. This paper examines whether the gating of a large conductance Ca-activated K+ channel in skeletal muscle is consistent with microscopic reversibility. If microscopic reversibility is obeyed, then the number of forward and backward transitions per unit time for each individual reaction step will, on average, be identical and, consequently, the gating must show time reversibility. To look for time reversibility, two-dimensional dwell- time distributions of the durations of open and closed intervals were obtained from single-channel current records analyzed in the forward and in the backward directions. Two-dimensional dwell-time distributions of pairs of open intervals and of pairs of closed intervals were also analyzed to extend the resolution of the method to special circumstances in which intervals from different closed (or open) states might have similar durations. No significant differences were observed between the forward and backward analysis of the two-dimensional dwell-time distributions, suggesting time reversibility. Thus, we find no evidence to indicate that the gating of the maxi K+ channel violates microscopic reversibility.
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