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Modulation of Kir4.2 rectification properties and pHi-sensitive run-down by association with Kir5.1.

Hung D Lam, Anne-Marie Lemay, M Martha Briggs, Marco Yung, Ceredwyn E Hill

Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 2006 Nov , 1758, 1837-45

Inwardly rectifying K+ channels (Kir) comprise seven subfamilies that can be subdivided further on the basis of cytosolic pH (pHi) sensitivity, rectification strength and kinetics, and resistance to run-down. Although distinct residues within each channel subunit define these properties, heteromeric association with other Kir subunits can modulate them. We identified such an effect in the wild-type forms of Kir4.2 and Kir5.1 and used this to further understand how the functional properties of Kir channels relate to their structures. Kir4.2 and a Kir4.2-Kir5.1 fusion protein were expressed in HEK293 cells. Inward currents from Kir4.2 were stable over 10 min and pHi-insensitive (pH 6 to 8). Conversely, currents from Kir4.2-Kir5.1 exhibited a pHi-sensitive run-down at slightly acidic pHi. At pHi 7.2, currents in response to voltage steps positive to EK were essentially time independent for Kir4.2 indicating rapid block by Mg2+. Coexpression with Kir5.1 significantly increased the blocking time constant, and increased steady-state outward current characteristic of weak rectifiers. Recovery from blockade at negative potentials was voltage dependent and 2 to 10 times slower in the homomeric channel. These results show that Kir5.1 converts Kir4.2 from a strong to a weak rectifier, rendering it sensitive to pHi, and suggesting that Kir5.1 plays a role in fine-tuning Kir4.2 activity.