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The Kir6.1-protein, a pore-forming subunit of ATP-sensitive potassium channels, is prominently expressed by giant cholinergic interneurons in the striatum of the rat brain.

Achim Thomzig, Harald Prüss, Rudiger W Veh

Brain Res., 2003 Oct 3 , 986, 132-8

ATP-sensitive potassium channels comprise a complex of two structurally different proteins: a member of the inwardly rectifying Kir6 family (Kir6.1 or Kir6.2) and a sulfonylurea receptor (SUR1 or SUR2). Their regulation by intracellular ADP/ATP-concentrations and through various pharmacological agents has profound implications for the excitability of cells and, in the case of neurons, for neurotransmitter release. We previously showed that in rat brain, the Kir6.1 subunit is predominantly expressed in astrocytes in contrast to the Kir6.2 subunit, which is exclusively expressed in neurons. In this report we show, that in addition to the astrocytic expression, the Kir6.1 protein is also found in a small subset of neurons in distinct areas of the brain, like the hypothalamic supraoptic and paraventricular nuclei and the striatum. The Kir6.1-positive neurons in the striatum could be characterized as cholinergic interneurones, verified by immunofluorescence double staining. This complete colocalization of the Kir6.1 subunit in cholinergic interneurons is interesting with respect to the pharmacological potential of these channels. A selective modulation of the Kir6.1 subunit in the cholinergic striatal interneurons may eventually be of therapeutic value for the treatment of Parkinson's disease.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12965237