Mutations in the gene encoding the voltage-gated sodium channel of skeletal muscle (SkM1) have been identified in a group of autosomal dominant diseases, characterized by abnormalities of the sarcolemmal excitability, that include paramyotonia congenita (PC) and hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP). We previously reported that PC mutations cause in common a slowing of inactivation in the human SkM1 sodium channel. In this investigation, we examined the molecular mechanisms responsible for the effects of L1433R, located in D4/S3, on channel gating by creating a series of additional mutations at the 1433 site. Unlike the R1448C mutation, found in D4/S4, which produces its effects largely due to the loss of the positive charge, change of the hydropathy of the side chain rather than charge is the primary factor mediating the effects of L1433R. These two mutations also differ in their effects on recovery from inactivation, conditioned inactivation, and steady state inactivation of the SkM1 channels. We constructed a double mutation containing both L1433R and R1448C. The double mutation closely resembled R1448C with respect to alterations in the kinetics of inactivation during depolarization and voltage dependence, but was indistinguishable from L1433R in the kinetics of recovery from inactivation and steady state inactivation. No additive effects were seen, suggesting that these two segments interact during gating. In addition, we found that these mutations have different effects on the delay of recovery from inactivation and the kinetics of the tail currents, raising a question whether this delay is a reflection of the deactivation process. These results suggest that the S3 and S4 segments play distinct roles in different processes of hSkM1 channel gating: D4/S4 is critical for the deactivation and inactivation of the open channel while D4/S3 has a dominant role in the recovery of inactivated channels. However, these two segments interact during the entry to, and exit from, inactivation states.
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