Royal Society Publishing

On the Stochastic Properties of Single Ion Channels

D. Colquhoun, A. G. Hawkes


It is desirable to be able to predict, from a specified mechanism, the appearance of currents that flow through single ion channels (a) to enable interpretation of experiments in which single channel currents are observed, and (b) to allow physical meaning to be attached to the results observed in kinetic (noise and relaxation) experiments in which the aggregate of many single channel currents is observed. With this object, distributions (and their means) are derived for the length of the sojourn in any specified subset of states (e.g. all shut states). In general these are found to depend not only on the state in which the sojourn starts, but also on the state that immediately follows the sojourn. The methods described allow derivation of the distribution of, for example, (a) the number of openings, and total length of the burst of openings, that may occur during a single occupancy, and (b) the apparent gap between such bursts. The methods are illustrated by their application to two simple theories of agonist action. The Castillo--Katz (non-cooperative) mechanism predicts, for example, that the number of openings per occupancy, and the apparent burst length, are independent of agonist concentration whereas a simple cooperative mechanism predicts that both will increase with agonist concentration.