Voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channel activation depends on interactions between voltage sensors and an intracellular activation gate that controls access to a central pore cavity. Here, we hypothesize that this gate is additionally responsible for closed-state inactivation (CSI) in Kv4.x channels. These Kv channels undergo CSI by a mechanism that is still poorly understood. To test the hypothesis, we deduced the state of the Kv4.1 channel intracellular gate by exploiting the trap-door paradigm of pore blockade by internally applied quaternary ammonium (QA) ions exhibiting slow blocking kinetics and high-affinity for a blocking site. We found that inactivation gating seemingly traps benzyl-tributylammonium (bTBuA) when it enters the central pore cavity in the open state. However, bTBuA fails to block inactivated Kv4.1 channels, suggesting gated access involving an internal gate. In contrast, bTBuA blockade of a Shaker Kv channel that undergoes open-state P/C-type inactivation exhibits fast onset and recovery inconsistent with bTBuA trapping. Furthermore, the inactivated Shaker Kv channel is readily blocked by bTBuA. We conclude that Kv4.1 closed-state inactivation modulates pore blockade by QA ions in a manner that depends on the state of the internal activation gate.
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