Missense mutations at arginine residues in the S4 voltage-sensor domains of NaV1.4 are an established cause of hypokalemic periodic paralysis, an inherited disorder of skeletal muscle involving recurrent episodes of weakness in conjunction with low serum K+. Expression studies in oocytes have revealed anomalous, hyperpolarizationactivated gating pore currents in mutant channels. This aberrant gating pore conductance creates a small inward current at the resting potential that is thought to contribute to susceptibility to depolarization in low K+ during attacks of weakness. A critical component of this hypothesis is the magnitude of the gating pore conductance relative to other conductances that are active at the resting potential in mammalian muscle: large enough to favor episodes of paradoxical depolarization in low K+, yet not so large as to permanently depolarize the fiber. To improve the estimate of the specific conductance for the gating pore in affected muscle, we sequentially measured Na+ current through the channel pore, gating pore current, and gating charge displacement in oocytes expressing R669H, R672G, or wild-type NaV1.4 channels. The relative conductance of the gating pore to that of the pore domain pathway for Na+ was 0.03%, which implies a specific conductance in muscle from heterozygous patients of ~10 μS/cm2 or 1% of the total resting conductance. Unexpectedly, our data also revealed a substantial decoupling between gating charge displacement and peak Na+ current for both R669H and R672G mutant channels. This decoupling predicts a reduced Na+ current density in affected muscle, consistent with the observations that the maximal dV/dt and peak amplitude of the action potential are reduced in fibers from patients with R672G and in a knock-in mouse model of R669H. The defective coupling between gating charge displacement and channel activation identifies a previously unappreciated mechanism that contributes to the reduced excitability of affected fibers seen with these mutations and possibly with other R/X mutations of S4 of NaV, CaV, and KV channels associated with human disease.
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