1. In cell-attached patches formed on the apical membrane of fetal alveolar epithelium, terbutaline (a specific beta2-adrenergic agonist) increased the open probability (Po) of an amiloride-sensitive Na+-permeable non-selective cation (NSC) channel (control, 0.03 +/- 0.04; terbutaline, 0.62 +/- 0.18; n = 8, P < 0. 00001) by increasing the mean open time 100-fold without any significant change in the mean closed time and without any change in the single channel conductance (control, 27.8 +/- 2.3 pS; terbutaline, 28.2 +/- 2.1 pS; n = 8). 2. The Po of the unstimulated channel increased when the apical membrane was depolarized due to a decrease in the closing rate and an increase in the opening rate, while the Po of the terbutaline-stimulated channel did not depend on the membrane potential. 3. Increased cytosolic [Ca2+] also increased the Po of the channel in a manner consistent with one Ca2+-binding site on the cytosolic surface of the channel. Terbutaline increased the sensitivity of the channel to cytosolic Ca2+ by shifting the concentration of cytosolic Ca2+ ([Ca2+]c) required for half-maximal activation to a lower [Ca2+]c value, leading to an increase in Po. 4. An increase in the cytosolic Cl- concentration ([Cl-]c) decreased the Po of the channel consistent with two Cl--binding sites by increasing the closing rate without any significant change in the opening rate. Terbutaline increased Po by reducing the effect of cytosolic Cl- to promote channel closing. 5. Taken together, these observations indicate that terbutaline activates a Ca2+-activated, Cl--inhibitable, amiloride-sensitive, Na+-permeable NSC channel in fetal rat alveolar epithelium in two ways: first, through an increase in Ca2+ sensitivity, and second, through a reduction in the effect of cytosolic Cl- to promote channel closing.
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