Intracellular microelectrode techniques were employed to characterize the blocker sensitivity of the K+ conductance (gK) at the apical membrane of the toad retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Increasing the K+ concentration in the apical bath ([K+]o) from 2 to 5 mM produced a rapid depolarization of the apical membrane potential (VA). The addition of 0.5 mM Ba2+ or 5 mM Cs+ to the apical bath rapidly depolarized VA and increased the transepithelial resistance and ratio of apical-to-basolateral membrane resistance. In the presence of apical Ba2+ or Cs+, the response of VA to delta [K+]o was markedly reduced, indicating that these ions are effective blockers of apical gK. The Ba(2+)- and Cs(+)-induced decreases in the apparent apical-to-basolateral membrane conductance ratio were concentration dependent, with apparent dissociation constants of 17 microM and 0.5 mM, respectively. The apparent blocker sensitivity of apical gK is similar to that previously demonstrated for the inwardly rectifying K+ conductance in isolated toad RPE cells, suggesting that the inwardly rectifying K+ conductance comprises much of apical gK.
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