Electrophysiological recordings of inward currents from whole cells showed that vascular muscle cells have one type of sodium channel and two types of calcium channels. One of the calcium channels, the transient calcium channel, was activated by small depolarizations but then rapidly inactivated. It was equally permeable to calcium and barium and was blocked by cadmium, but not by tetrodotoxin. The other type, the sustained calcium channel, was activated by larger depolarizations, but inactivated very little; it was more permeable to barium than calcium. The sustained calcium channel was more sensitive to block by cadmium than the transient channel, but also was not blocked by tetrodotoxin. The sodium channel inactivated 15 times more rapidly than the transient calcium channel and at more negative voltages. This sodium channel, which is unusual because it is only blocked by a very high (60 μM) tetrodotoxin concentration but not by cadmium, is the first to be characterized in vascular muscle, and together with the two calcium channels, provides a basis for different patterns of excitation in vascular muscles.
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