The state from which channel inactivation occurs is both biologically and mechanistically critical. For example, preferential closed-state inactivation is potentiated in certain Ca2+ channel splice variants, yielding an enhancement of inactivation during action potential trains, which has important consequences for short-term synaptic plasticity. Mechanistically, the structural substrates of inactivation are now being resolved, yielding a growing library of molecular snapshots, ripe for functional interpretation. For these reasons, there is an increasing need for experimentally direct and systematic means of determining the states from which inactivation proceeds. Although many approaches have been devised, most rely upon numerical models that require detailed knowledge of channelstate topology and gating parameters. Moreover, prior strategies have only addressed voltage-dependent forms of inactivation (VDI), and have not. been readily applicable to Ca2+-dependent inactivation. (GDI), a vital form of regulation in numerous contexts. Here, we devise a simple yet systematic approach, applicable to both. VDI and GDI, for semiquantitative mapping of the states from which inactivation occurs, based only on open-channel measurements. The method is relatively insensitive to the specifics of channel gating and does not require detailed knowledge of state topology or gating parameters. Rather than numerical models, we derive analytic equations that permit determination of the states from which inactivation occurs, based on direct manipulation of data. We apply this methodology to both VDI and GDI of Cav1.3 Ca2+ channels. VDI is found to proceed almost exclusively from the open state. CDI proceeds equally from the open and nearby closed states, but is disfavored from deep closed states distant from die open conformation. In all, these outcomes substantiate and enrich conclusions of our companion paper in this issue (Tadross et al. 2010. J. Gen. Physiol. doi:10.1085/jgp.200910308) that deduces endpoint mechanisms of VDI and CDI in Cav1.3. More broadly, the methods introduced herein can be readily generalized for the analysis of other channel types.
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