Stochastic properties of ion channel openings and bursts in a membrane patch that contains two channels: evidence concerning the number of channels present when a record containing only single openings is observed.

Department of Pharmacology, University College, London, U.K.
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Containing papers of a Biological character. Royal Society (Great Britain) 07/1990; 240(1299):453-77. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1990.0048
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT If a single ion channel record is observed in which two ion channels are never simultaneously open, then it is often of interest to know whether the observations indeed arose from the activity of only one ion channel. This question can be answered if it is possible to calculate the distribution of the duration of runs of single openings in a membrane patch that contains two active channels. If the observed run of single openings is much longer than that expected for a patch with two channels it is likely that only one channel was active. An approximate method is presented for calculating the distribution of the duration of runs of single openings in a patch with two active channels; this method has the advantage that it can be calculated from observable quantities, and requires no knowledge of the details of the ion-channel mechanism or its rate constants. The accuracy of this approximation is tested by exact calculations of the properties of runs of single openings, and of single bursts, for two specific mechanisms and a large range of rate constants. The approximation is good in all cases in which openings occur singly, or in closely spaced bursts. If, as is common in practice, openings occur in clusters that are separated by long shut periods, then overlap of clusters from two different channels may be detected, if no double opening is produced, as a period in the middle of a cluster in which the probability of being open doubles. The results derived here can be applied to such a period to test whether it results from the simultaneous activity of two channels, rather than from a change in the properties of a single channel.

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