The electrical behavior of small single frog atrial trabeculae in the double sucrose gap has been investigated. The currents injected during voltage clamp experiments did not behave as predicted from the assumption of spatial uniformity of the voltage across a Hodgkin-Huxley membrane. Much of the difference is due to the geometrical complexities of this tissue. Nonetheless, two transient inward currents have been identified, the faster of which is blocked by tetrodotoxin (TTX). The magnitude of the slower transient varies markedly between preparations but always increases in a given preparation with increase of external calcium. The fast transient current traces, at small to intermediate depolarizations, are often marred by the presence of notches and secondary peaks due most probably to the loss of space clamp conditions. In many preparations these could be removed by reducing the current magnitude through application of a partially-blocking dose of TTX. Conversely, in the preparations whose fast transient was fully blocked by TTX, notches and secondary peaks in the slow transient could by induced through increasing calcium concentration and thereby the slow current magnitude. Previously used techniques for the measurement of the reversal potential of the fast inward transient have been shown to be invalid. In so far as they can be measured, the reversal potentials of the fast and slow inward transient are in the same neighborhood, i.e. around 120 mV from rest. The true values may be quite a bit apart. The total charge flow in the capacitive transient was measured for different sized nodes and preparations. From these data and estimates of plasma membrane area per unit trabecular volume, specific membrane capacitances of around 3 muF/cm2 were calculated for small bundles. The apparent ion current densities on this basis are approximately 1/10 of those measured in axons. The capacitive current occurring in small bundles decayed as the sum of at least three exponential functions of time. On the basis of these data and the anomalously large stable node widths, we suggest a coaxial core model of the preparation with the inner elements in series with an additional large extracellular resistance.
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