The action of two water-soluble carbodiimides and of Woodward's reagent K on the properties of the gating mechanism of sodium channels of the Ranvier node membrane was investigated. Treatment with carbodiimide solution (pH 4.8-5.2) at a potential of -80 to -100 mV was shown to delay activation and inactivation of the channels considerably and to reduce the sensitivity of both gating functions to changes in membrane potential. The effective activation charge, determined relative to the limiting logarithmic slope of the activation curve (zef) was reduced by 1.7 times. Treatment of the membrane under the same conditions, but at zero holding potential, induced much smaller changes in properties of the gating mechanism; under these conditions zef remained unchanged. Woodward's reagent at high negative potential induced the same changes in the gating system as carbodiimide at 0 mV. The action of Woodward's reagent also depended on potential, but by a lesser degree than when carbodiimides were used. The results suggest that two types of carboxyl groups exist on the outer surface of the membrane: "mobile," which perform the role of gating particles and which are moved from the surface when the channel changes into the open or inactivated state, and "immobile," which face the external solution whatever the state of the channel.
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