In this study we have expressed and characterized recombinant cardiac and skeletal muscle sodium channel α subunits in tsA-201 cells under identical experimental conditions. Unlike the Xenopus oocyte expression system, in tsA- 201 cells (transformed human embryonic kidney) both channels seem to gate rapidly, as in native tissue. In general, hSkM1 gating seemed faster than hill both in terms of rate of inactivation and rate of recovery from inactivation as well as time to peak current. The midpoint of the steady- state inactivation curve was ~25 mV more negative for hill compared with hSkM1. In both isoforms, the steady-state channel availability relationships ('inactivation curves') shifted toward more negative membrane potentials with time. The cardiac isoform showed a minimal shift in the activation curve as a function of time after whole-cell dialysis, whereas hSkM1 showed a continued and marked negative shift in the activation voltage dependence of channel gating. This observation suggests that the mechanism underlying the shift in inactivation voltage dependence may be similar to the one that is causing the shift in the activation voltage dependence in hSkM1 but that this is uncoupled in the cardiac isoform. These results demonstrate the utility and limitations of measuring cardiac and skeletal muscle recombinant Na+ channels in tsA-201 cells. This baseline characterization will be useful for future investigations on channel mutants and pharmacology.
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