Correlations between the durations of adjacent open and shut intervals recorded from ion channels contain information about the underlying gating mechanism. This study presents an additional approach to extracting the correlation information. Detailed correlation information is obtained directly from single-channel data and quantified in a manner that can provide insight into the connections among the states underlying the gating. The information is obtained independently of any specific kinetic scheme, except for the general assumption of Markov gating. The durations of adjacent open and shut intervals are binned into two-dimensional (2-D) dwell-time distributions. The 2-D (joint) distributions are fitted with sums of 2-D exponential components to determine the number of 2-D components, their volumes, and their open and closed time constants. The dependency of each 2- D component is calculated by comparing its observed volume to the volume that would be expected if open and shut intervals paired independently. The estimated component dependencies are then used to suggest gating mechanisms and to provide a powerful means of examining whether proposed gating mechanisms have the correct connections among states. The sensitivity of the 2-D method can identify hidden components and dependencies that can go undetected by previous correlation methods.
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