1. The mode of action of the pyrethroid insecticide deltamethrin on inexcitable embryonic cultured cockroach neurones has been investigated using the patch-clamp technique. 2. Whole-cell recordings of the current induced by step depolarizations of the cell membrane showed that concentrations of deltamethrin ranging from 10(−8) to 5 × 10(−6) mol l-1 induced a small tetrodotoxin (TTX)-sensitive inward current that peaked at around +10 mV and reversed at around +60 mV. The activation and inactivation kinetics of this current were much slower than those of the axonal sodium current in this same species and were relatively insensitive to membrane potential. Steady-state inactivation was almost absent. 3. Single-channel activity associated with the action of the insecticide was analyzed using the cell-attached configuration. Three distinct patterns of activity were found: (1) discrete single-channel events of relatively short duration, (2) long events of comparatively small amplitude and (3) complex bursts made up of a succession of openings and closings to several levels. These three patterns were analyzed quantitatively using specially designed programs. 4. The first pattern of activity could be seen in most patches. It consisted of short (1–10 ms) rectangular events of comparatively small amplitude (1.5 pA at rest) and very low open time probability (around 0.001). The current-voltage relationship of these small events was linear over the voltage range studied and the (extrapolated) reversal potential approximated ENa. 5. The second pattern of activity was observed less frequently. The channels could stay open for very long periods (up to several seconds) and occasionally flickered between two or more levels. 6. The third pattern of activity was observed in many patches. During the burst, which could last from a few milliseconds to a few hundred milliseconds, the single-channel current jumped almost continuously between several levels (up to 7 or 8).

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