The mechanism by which the cytoskeletal protein actin affects the conductance of amiloride-sensitive epithelial sodium channels (ENaC) was studied in planar lipid bilayers. In the presence of monomeric actin, we found a decrease in the single-channel conductance of α-ENaC that did not occur when the internal [Ca2+]free was buffered to <10 nM. An analysis of single-channel kinetics demonstrated that Ca2+ induced the appearance of long-lived closed intervals separating bursts of channel activity, both in the presence and in the absence of actin. In the absence of actin, the duration of these bursts and the time spent by the channel in its open, but not in its short-lived closed state, were inversely proportional to [Ca2+]. This, together with a lengthening of the interburst intervals, translated into a dose-dependent decrease in the single-channel open probability. In contrast, a [Ca2+]-dependent decrease in α-ENaC conductance in the presence of actin was accompanied by lengthening of the burst intervals with no significant changes in the open or closed (both short- and long-lived) times. We conclude that Ca2+ acts as a "fast-to-intermediate" blocker when monomeric actin is present, producing a subsequent attenuation of the apparent unitary conductance of the channel.
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