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In excitable cells, ions permeate the cell membrane through ionic channels, some of which open and close in response to changes in the potential difference across the membrane. It has been supposed that this opening and closing (or gating) process is largely independent of the permeating ion. However, we show here that the gating of the resting potassium permeability of frog skeletal muscle depends on the species of ion which carries current across the membrane. The potassium permeability investigated allows K+ to move in across the membrane more easily than out. This property is known as inward or anomalous rectification and is shared by cell membranes of skeletal muscle, egg and certain other cells. In both egg cells and skeletal muscle fibres, the group IIIB metal ion Tl+, which can replace K+ in several other systems in experimental conditions, also permeates the inward rectifier. Indeed, Tl+ is more permeant than K+ (refs 8, 9). However, when Tl+ carries current inwards across the membrane, the inward rectifier inactivates over a brief period when the membrane is hyperpolarized, whereas when K+ carries current, the permeability increases with time under hyperpolarization.


Journal article



Publication Date





509 - 511


Animals, Cell Membrane Permeability, Electric Conductivity, Ion Channels, Membrane Potentials, Muscles, Ranidae, Thallium