Voltage-dependent sodium channels are the central players in the excitability of neurons, cardiac muscle, and skeletal muscle. Hundreds of mutations in sodium channels have been associated with human disease, particularly genetic forms of epilepsy, arrhythmias, myotonia, and periodic paralysis. In this issue of the JCI, Jarecki and colleagues present evidence suggesting that many such mutations alter the gating of sodium channels to produce resurgent sodium current, an unusual form of gating in which sodium channels reopen following an action potential, thus promoting the firing of another action potential (see the related article beginning on page 369). The results of this study suggest a widespread pathophysiological role for this mechanism, previously described to occur normally in only a few types of neurons.
Stephen C. Cannon, Bruce P. Bean
Resurgent sodium current effects on action potential firing in a simulated skeletal muscle fiber.