1. The mode of action of the cholinergic antagonist hexamethonium on the excitatory responses of voltage-clamped Aplysia neurons to acetylcholine (ACh) has been examined by voltage- and concentration-jump relaxation analysis. 2. At steady-state concentrations of ACh hyperpolarizing command steps induced inward current relaxations to a new steady-state level (Iss). The time constants of these inward relaxations, τf, which approximate the mean single-channel lifetime, were increased both by increasing the membrane potential and by lowering the bath temperature (Q10 = 3) but were not affected by increasing the ACh concentration over the dose range employed. 3. In the presence of hexamethonium hyperpolarizing command steps produced biphasic relaxations of the agonist-induced current. τf was reduced in a voltagedependent manner, the degree of reduction increasing with hyperpolarization. 4. Slow, inverse relaxations were also triggered in the presence of hexamethonium. The time constant of this relaxation was reduced by increasing membrane potential and hexamethonium concentration. 5. Both the estimated association (kf = 5 × 104M-1. sec-1) and the estimated dissociation (kb = 0.24-0.29 sec-1) rate constants derived from a three-state sequential model for block by hexamethonium were independent of the membrane potential. Similar rate constants were estimated from experiments with the concentration-jump technique, which were also independent of the membrane potential over the range - 50 to - 110 mV. 6. It is suggested that the voltage-dependent actions of hexamethonium may originate either from an alteration of the channel opening and closing rate constants through an allosteric interaction with the ACh receptor, rather than through an influence of the transmembrane electric field on the rate of drug binding, or through a fast reaction which is rate-limited by voltage-independent diffusion.
- ion channels
- voltage jump