Low conductance sodium (Na) channels have been observed in nerve, skeletal muscle, and cardiac cells. In cardiac tissues the higher amplitude, more commonly observed Na channel was first investigated in detail by Cachelin et al. (Cachelin, A.B., J.E. de Peyer, S. Kokubun, and H. Reuter, 1983, J. Physiol. (Lond.), 340:389-402). They also reported low amplitude Na channel events. We have studied this low conductance Na channel in single canine cardiac Purkinje cells using cell-attached patches. Patch pipette solutions contained either 140 or 280 mM NaCl, and cells were bathed in a solution of 150 mM KCl to bring their resting potential close to zero. In 140 mM Na+, during steps to -50 mV, the lower and higher openings had amplitudes of 0.57 +/- 0.2 and 1.2 +/- 0.2 pA (means +/- SD of Gaussian fits). In 280 mM Na+ at -50 mV, amplitudes were 0.72 +/- 0.2 and 1.55 +/- 0.2 pA. Over a substantial voltage range, the lower events had amplitudes of about one-third that of the higher events. The frequency of the low conductance openings varied in different patches from zero to 22% of total openings. Histograms of open durations and latencies at several voltages suggested no difference in kinetics between the two channel events. The behavior of the low conductance channels was more consistent with a second population of channels rather than a second open state
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