The properties of single acetylcholine-activated ion channels in developing rat myoblasts and myotubes in tissue culture have been investigated using the gigaohm seal patch clamp technique. Two classes of ACh-activated channels were identified. The major class of channels (accounting for >95% of all channel openings) has a conductance of 35 pS and a mean open time of 15 msec (at room temperature and -80 mV). The minor class of channels has a larger conductance (55 pS) and a briefer mean open time (2-3 msec). Functional ACh-activated channels are present in undifferentiated mononucleated myoblasts 1-2 days in culture, although the channel density on such cells is low. Over the next week in culture, as the myoblasts fuse to form multinucleate myotubes, there is a marked increase in channel density and an increase in the proportion of large conductance channels. No significant change, however, occurs in channel conductance or open time (within a given class of channels) during this period. At high concentrations of ACh, channels desensitize and channel openings occur in groups, similar to what has been previously described in adult muscle. The rate of channel opening within a group of openings increases with increasing agonist concentration while mean open time is independent of agonist concentration, as expected from simple models of drug action. During a group of openings, the channel is open for half the time (i.e., channel opening rate is equal to channel closing rate) at a concentration of approximately 6 μm ACh. © 1984.
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