Steady-state current-voltage relationship of the Na/K pump in guinea pig ventricular myocytes. Academic Article uri icon


  • Whole-cell currents were recorded in guinea pig ventricular myocytes at approximately 36 degrees C before, during, and after exposure to maximally effective concentrations of strophanthidin, a cardiotonic steroid and specific inhibitor of the Na/K pump. Wide-tipped pipettes, in combination with a device for exchanging the solution inside the pipette, afforded reasonable control of the ionic composition of the intracellular solution and of the membrane potential. Internal and external solutions were designed to minimize channel currents and Na/Ca exchange current while sustaining vigorous forward Na/K transport, monitored as strophanthidin-sensitive current. 100-ms voltage pulses from the -40 mV holding potential were used to determine steady-state levels of membrane current between -140 and +60 mV. Control experiments demonstrated that if the Na/K pump cycle were first arrested, e.g., by withdrawal of external K, or of both internal and external Na, then neither strophanthidin nor its vehicle, dimethylsulfoxide, had any discernible effect on steady-state membrane current. Further controls showed that, with the Na/K pump inhibited by strophanthidin, membrane current was insensitive to changes of external [K] between 5.4 and 0 mM and was little altered by changing the pipette [Na] from 0 to 50 mM. Strophanthidin-sensitive current therefore closely approximated Na/K pump current, and was virtually free of contamination by current components altered by the changes in extracellular [K] and intracellular [Na] expected to accompany pump inhibition. The steady-state Na/K pump current-voltage (I-V) relationship, with the pump strongly activated by 5.4 mM external K and 50 mM internal Na (and 10 mM ATP), was sigmoid in shape with a steep positive slope between about 0 and -100 mV, a less steep slope at more negative potentials, and an extremely shallow slope at positive potentials; no region of negative slope was found. That shape of I-V relationship can be generated by a two-state cycle with one pair of voltage-sensitive rate constants and one pair of voltage-insensitive rate constants: such a two-state scheme is a valid steady-state representation of a multi-state cycle that includes only a single voltage-sensitive step.

publication date

  • September 1989