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Mechanisms underlying modulation of neuronal KCNQ2/KCNQ3 potassium channels by extracellular protons.

David L Prole, Pedro A Lima, Neil V Marrion

J. Gen. Physiol., 2003 Dec , 122, 775-93

Changes in extracellular pH occur during both physiological neuronal activity and pathological conditions such as epilepsy and stroke. Such pH changes are known to exert profound effects on neuronal activity and survival. Heteromeric KCNQ2/3 potassium channels constitute a potential target for modulation by H+ ions as they are expressed widely within the CNS and have been proposed to underlie the M-current, an important determinant of excitability in neuronal cells. Whole-cell and single-channel recordings demonstrated a modulation of heterologously expressed KCNQ2/3 channels by extracellular H+ ions. KCNQ2/3 current was inhibited by H+ ions with an IC50 of 52 nM (pH 7.3) at -60 mV, rising to 2 microM (pH 5.7) at -10 mV. Neuronal M-current exhibited a similar sensitivity. Extracellular H+ ions affected two distinct properties of KCNQ2/3 current: the maximum current attainable upon depolarization (Imax) and the voltage dependence of steady-state activation. Reduction of Imax was antagonized by extracellular K+ ions and affected by mutations within the outer-pore turret, indicating an outer-pore based process. This reduction of Imax was shown to be due primarily to a decrease in the maximum open-probability of single KCNQ2/3 channels. Single-channel open times were shortened by acidosis (pH 5.9), while closed times were increased. Acidosis also recruited a longer-lasting closed state, and caused a switch of single-channel activity from the full-conductance state ( approximately 8 pS) to a subconductance state ( approximately 5 pS). A depolarizing shift in the activation curve of macroscopic KCNQ2/3 currents and single KCNQ2/3 channels was caused by acidosis, while alkalosis caused a hyperpolarizing shift. Activation and deactivation kinetics were slowed by acidosis, indicating specific effects of H+ ions on elements involved in gating. Contrasting modulation of homomeric KCNQ2 and KCNQ3 currents revealed that high sensitivity to H+ ions was conferred by the KCNQ3 subunit.