Ionic basis of pacemaker generation in dog colonic smooth muscle.
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1. The ionic basis of the slow waves in the circular muscle of the dog colon, in particular the ionic conductances involved in their initiation, were investigated by measuring intracellular electrical activity in the Abe-Tomita-type chamber for voltage control. 2. The depolarization that initiates the slow wave activity could be evoked by an increase in inward current and/or by a block of outward current. According to previous work, inward current could be carried by Na+, Cl-, and Ca2+ ions; K+ ions would carry outward current. 3. The Na+ channel blocker tetrodotoxin (5 x 10(-7) M) did not affect the slow wave amplitude nor its rate of rise. After omission of Na+, by replacing Na+ with N-methyl-D-glucamine, large slow waves continued to develop although some changes in slow wave characteristics occurred. 4. Replacement of 91% of the Cl- by isethionate decreased the slow wave frequency and increased the slow wave amplitude. However, NaCl substitution by sucrose increased the slow wave frequency and decreased the slow wave amplitude. 5. Slow wave activity continued to develop after blockade of Ca2+ influx by D600 (10(-6) M) or CoCl2 (1-3 mM). D600 and Co2+ did not affect the membrane potential but reduced the slow wave amplitude and abolished the plateau potential. Slow waves were abolished after omission of extracellular Ca2+ (plus 1 mM-EGTA). This suggests that Ca2+ influx is probably not necessary but extracellular presence of Ca2+ ions is indispensible for the slow wave generation. 6. The combination of 0 Na+, Li+ HEPES solution, by replacing Na+ with Li+, plus D600 depolarized the cells (up to approximately -40 mV) and abolished slow wave activity. This effect was voltage dependent since repolarization caused slow waves to return. 7. Abolition of the slow wave activity was also obtained by current-induced depolarization to approximately -40 mV. However, during high-K+-induced depolarization (to approximately -40 mV) high amplitude (16 mV) slow waves were still present, slowing that the voltage dependence of the slow waves was shifted positively. This effect probably occurs due to modification by extracellular K+ of a voltage-dependent K+ conductance, which would suggest that a K+ conductance is involved in slow wave generation. 8. In conclusion, slow waves are generated by cyclic membrane conductance changes, which are dependent on the presence of extracellular Ca2+ ions and on the membrane potential. Our data are consistent with the hypothesis that slow waves are initiated by the blockade of a K+ conductance.