The P segments of the voltage-dependent Na+ channel line the outer mouth and selectivity filter of the pore. The residues that form the cytoplasmic mouth of the pore of the channel have not been identified. To study the structure of the inner pore mouth, the presumed selectivity filter residues (D400, E755, K1237, and A1529), and three amino acids just amino- terminal to each of these residues in the rat skeletal muscle Na+ channel, were mutated to cysteine and expressed in tsA 201 cells. These amino acids are predicted (by analogy to K+ channels) to be on the cytoplasmic side of the putative selectivity filter residues. Inward and outward Na+ currents were measured with the whole-cell configuration of the patch-clamp technique. Cysteinyl side-chain accessibility was gauged by sensitivity to Cd2+ block and by reactivity with methanethiosulfonate (MTS) reagents applied to both the inside and the outside of the cell. Outward currents through the wild- type and all of the mutant channels were unaffected by internal Cd2+ (100 μM). Similarly, 1 mM methanethiosulfonate ethylammonium (MTSEA) applied to the inside of the membrane did not affect wild-type or mutant outward currents. However, two mutants amino-terminal to the selectivity position in domain III (F1236C and T1235C) and one in domain IV (S1528C) were blocked with high affinity by external Cd2+. The Na+ current through F1236C and S1528C channels was inhibited by MTSEA applied to the outside of the cell. The accessibility of these mutants to externally applied cysteinyl ligands indicates that the side chains of the mutated residues face outward rather than inward. The K+ channel model of the P segments as protein loops that span the selectivity region is not applicable to the Na+ channel.
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