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Activity-dependent regulation of the potassium channel subunits Kv1.1 and Kv3.1.

Yong Lu, Pablo Monsivais, Bruce L Tempel, Edwin W Rubel

J. Comp. Neurol., 2004 Feb 23 , 470, 93-106

Afferent activity, especially in young animals, can have profound influences on postsynaptic neuronal structure, function and metabolic processes. Most studies evaluating activity regulation of cellular components have examined the expression of ubiquitous cellular proteins as opposed to molecules that are specialized in the neurons of interest. Here we consider the regulation of two proteins (voltage-gated potassium channel subunits Kv1.1 and Kv3.1) that auditory brainstem neurons in birds and mammals express at uniquely high levels. Unilateral removal of the avian cochlea leads to rapid and dramatic reduction in the expression of both proteins in the nucleus magnocellularis (NM; a division of the avian cochlear nucleus) neurons as detected by immunocytochemistry. Uniform downregulation of Kv1.1 was reliable by 3 hours after cochlea removal, was sustained through 96 hours, and returned to control levels in the surviving neurons by 2 weeks. The activity-dependent changes in Kv3.1 appear to be bimodal and are more transient, being observed at 3 hours after cochlea removal and recovering to control levels within 24 hours. We also explored the functional properties of Kv1.1 in NM neurons deprived of auditory input for 24 hours by whole-cell recordings. Low-threshold potassium currents in deprived NM neurons were not significantly different from control neurons in their amplitude or sensitivity to dendrotoxin-I, a selective K+ channel antagonist. We conclude that the highly specialized abundant expression of Kv1.1 and 3.1 channel subunits is not permanently regulated by synaptic activity and that changes in overall protein levels do not predict membrane pools.