A large (565 kDa) junctional sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) protein, the ryanodine receptor (RYR), may play both a structural and a functional role in the mechanism of skeletal muscle excitation-contraction coupling. Recently, the primary amino acid sequence of the RYR has been elucidated. In this paper, we introduce an immunological approach to examine the functional (electrophysiological) properties of the RYR when it is incorporated into planar lipid bilayers. The effects of two polyclonal antibodies against the SR junctional face membrane (JFM) and the RYR (anti-JFM and anti-RYR) were tested on the single-channel gating properties of the RYR SR Ca2(+)-release channel. Junctional SR vesicles were fused into planar lipid bilayers in solutions containing caesium salts. Solutions were designed to minimize the background conductances of the SR K+ and Cl- channels. Three actions of the anti-JFM antibody were distinguished on the basis of single-channel gating and conductance. The anti-RYR antibody had a single action, a simultaneous decrease in single-channel open probability (Po) and conductance. Both antibodies appear to alter single-channel gating by disrupting the Ca2(+)-activation mechanism of the channel. Anti-RYR-antibody-induced gating abnormalities were reversed by ATP, although the ATP-re-activated channels had altered gating kinetics. Two antigenic regions, recognizing the anti-RYR antibody, in the C-terminal end of the RYR primary amino acid sequence contain or are closely associated with putative ligand (Ca2+ and ATP)-binding sites identified previously. Our results demonstrate (1) that the antibodies induced abnormal gating (decreased open probability and stabilization of subconducting states) of SR release channels, and (2) that abnormal gating is not associated with physical obstruction or alteration of the conduction pathway. Thus antibodies directed at specific regions of the RYR (e.g. putative ligand-binding sites) can be used as effective probes with which to study the structural and functional properties of the SR Ca2(+)-release channel gating at the single-channel level.

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