Regulation of BK channels by auxiliary γ subunits

Jiyuan Zhang, Jiusheng Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

The large-conductance, calcium- and voltage-activated potassium (BK) channel has the largest single-channel conductance among potassium channels and can be activated by both membrane depolarization and increases in intracellular calcium concentration. BK channels consist of pore-forming, voltage- and calcium-sensing a subunits, either alone or in association with regulatory subunits. BK channels are widely expressed in various tissues and cells including both excitable and non-excitable cells and display diverse biophysical and pharmacological characteristics. This diversity can be explained in part by posttranslational modifications and alternative splicing of the a subunit, which is encoded by a single gene, KCNMA1, as well as by tissue-specific ß subunit modulation. Recently, a leucine-rich repeat-containing membrane protein, LRRC26, was found to interact with BK channels and cause an unprecedented large negative shift (~-140 mV) in the voltage dependence of the BK channel activation. LRRC26 allows BK channels to open even at near-physiological calcium concentration and membrane voltage in non-excitable cells. Three LRRC26-related proteins, LRRC52, LRRC55, and LRRC38, were subsequently identified as BK channel modulators. These LRRC proteins are structurally and functionally distinct from the BK channel ß subunits and were designated as γ subunits. The discovery of the γ subunits adds a new dimension to BK channel regulation and improves our understanding of the physiological functions of BK channels in various tissues and cell types. Unlike BK channel ß subunits, which have been intensively investigated both mechanistically and physiologically, our understanding of the γ subunits is very limited at this stage. This article reviews the structure, modulatory mechanisms, physiological relevance, and potential therapeutic implications of γ subunits as they are currently understood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number401
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Volume5
Issue numberOCT
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Accessory protein
  • Auxiliary subunit
  • BK channels
  • K
  • KCNMA1
  • Modulation
  • Regulation
  • Slo1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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