Sodium channels from diverse excitable membranes are very similar in their structure, yet surprisingly heterogeneous in their behavior. The processes that govern the opening and closing of sodium channels have appeared difficult to describe in terms of a single, unifying molecular scheme. Now cardiac sodium channels have been analyzed by high-resolution single-channel recordings over a broad range of potentials. Channels exhibited both complex and simple gating patterns at different voltages. Such behavioral diversity can be explained by the balance between two molecular transitions whereby channels can exit the open state.
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