1. Missense mutations in the α-subunit of the human skeletal muscle sodium channel (hSkM1) have been detected in some heritable forms of myotonia. By recording Na+ currents from cells transfected with cDNA encoding either wild-type or mutant hSkM1, we characterized the functional consequences of two myotonia-associated mutations that lie at the cytoplasmic end of the sixth transmembrane segment in domain II (S804F) or domain III (V1293I). 2. Both mutations caused modest, but unequivocal, alterations in the voltage-dependent gating behaviour of hSkM1. For S804F, the abnormalities were limited to fast inactivation: the persistent Na+ current at the end of a 50 ms depolarization was increased 3-fold, the rate of inactivation from the open state was slowed 2-fold, and the voltage dependence of fast inactivation (h(∞)) was shifted by +3 mV. V1293I also disrupted fast inactivation, as evidenced by a 3-fold faster rate of recovery at hyperpolarized potentials (≤ -70 mV). Activation was altered as well for V1293I: the voltage dependence was shifted by -6 mV (hyperpolarized). 3. Slow inactivation was not altered by S804F or V12931. 4. We conclude that S804F and V1293I are not benign polymorphisms. Either mutation causes detectable alterations in channel gating and, in model simulations, the magnitude of the defects is sufficient to produce runs of myotonic discharges.
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