1. Voltage-activated currents in cell bodies of the somatic muscle cells of Ascaris suum were studied using a two-microelectrode voltage-clamp technique. Cells recorded from had resting membrane potentials around -35 mV and had input conductances in the range 1-10 microS. 2. In cells bathed in artificial perienteric fluid, depolarizing steps from a holding potential of -35 mV elicited outward currents at a threshold of -15 mV. These currents had inwardly directed inflections on the rising phase, suggesting the presence of more than one current. Hyperpolarizing steps did not activate current. 3. Tetraethylammonium (TEA+, 69 mmol l-1) blocked the outward currents and allowed a voltage-dependent inactivating Ca2+ current to be observed. The peak current-voltage relationship was U-shaped with a threshold around -15 mV and peak at +5 mV. The reversal potential of the Ca2+ current was estimated by extrapolation to be +45 mV. 4. The permeability of the voltage-activated outward currents was studied by examining reversal potentials of tail currents. The reversal potentials were linearly dependent on the logarithm of the extracellular potassium concentration if extracellular [K+] was greater than 10 mmol l-1. The Na+/K+ permeability ratio of the currents was 0.04. 5. Inactivation, seen as a decline following the peak of the K+ current, was produced by maintained depolarization. The recovery from inactivation was complex and could be described by the sum of two exponentials with time constants of 0.67 s and 20.1 s. Steady-state inactivation of the K+ currents was observed at a range of holding potentials. Only a proportion (34%) of the total K+ current was inactivated by holding potentials more positive than -20 mV. 6. Extracellular application of 5 mmol l-1 4-aminopyridine (4-AP) selectively abolished an early fast component of the K+ current (the peak). The 4-AP-sensitive current decayed quickly with a time constant of around 10 ms; a Boltzmann fit to its activation curve had a half-maximal activation voltage of +14 mV and a 'slope' of 10.5 mV. The 4-AP-resistant current decayed with a time constant of around 1 s; a Boltzmann fit to its activation curve had a half-maximal activation voltage of +29 mV and a 'slope' of 12 mV. 7. Depolarization activates a Ca2+ current and two K+ currents: the K+ currents were separated into lower-threshold, fast-inactivating (Ia-like) and higher-threshold, slowly inactivating (Ik-like) currents.

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