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Evidence that neuronal G-protein-gated inwardly rectifying K+ channels are activated by G beta gamma subunits and function as heteromultimers.

P Kofuji, N Davidson, H A Lester

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 1995 Jul 3 , 92, 6542-6

Guanine nucleotide-binding proteins (G proteins) activate K+ conductances in cardiac atrial cells to slow heart rate and in neurons to decrease excitability. cDNAs encoding three isoforms of a G-protein-coupled, inwardly rectifying K+ channel (GIRK) have recently been cloned from cardiac (GIRK1/Kir 3.1) and brain cDNA libraries (GIRK2/Kir 3.2 and GIRK3/Kir 3.3). Here we report that GIRK2 but not GIRK3 can be activated by G protein subunits G beta 1 and G gamma 2 in Xenopus oocytes. Furthermore, when either GIRK3 or GIRK2 was coexpressed with GIRK1 and activated either by muscarinic receptors or by G beta gamma subunits, G-protein-mediated inward currents were increased by 5- to 40-fold. The single-channel conductance for GIRK1 plus GIRK2 coexpression was intermediate between those for GIRK1 alone and for GIRK2 alone, and voltage-jump kinetics for the coexpressed channels displayed new kinetic properties. On the other hand, coexpression of GIRK3 with GIRK2 suppressed the GIRK2 alone response. These studies suggest that formation of heteromultimers involving the several GIRKs is an important mechanism for generating diversity in expression level and function of neurotransmitter-coupled, inward rectifier K+ channels.