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An inwardly rectifying K(+) channel, Kir4.1, expressed in astrocytes surrounds synapses and blood vessels in brain.

K Higashi, A Fujita, A Inanobe, M Tanemoto, K Doi, T Kubo, Y Kurachi

Am. J. Physiol., Cell Physiol., 2001 Sep , 281, C922-31

Glial cells express inwardly rectifying K(+) (Kir) channels, which play a critical role in the buffering of extracellular K(+). Kir4.1 is the only Kir channel so far shown to be expressed in brain glial cells. We examined the distribution of Kir4.1 in rat brain with a specific antibody. The Kir4.1 immunostaining distributed broadly but not diffusely in the brain. It was strong in some regions such as the glomerular layer of the olfactory bulb, the Bergmann glia in the cerebellum, the ependyma, and pia mater, while little activity was detected in white matter of the corpus callosum or cerebellar peduncle. In the olfactory bulb, Kir4.1 immunoreactivity was detected in a scattered manner in about one-half of the glial fibrillary acidic protein-positive astrocytes. Immunoelectron microscopic examination revealed that Kir4.1 channels were enriched on the processes of astrocytes wrapping synapses and blood vessels. These data suggest that Kir4.1 is expressed in a limited population of brain astrocytes and may play a specific role in the glial K(+)-buffering action.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11502569