Abstract 1368: BK Channel β1 Subunits Are Specific Effectors Of Cholane-induced Channel Activation
The activity of large conductance, Ca2+- and voltage-gated potassium (BK) channels in smooth muscle critically controls vascular tone. Depolarization-induced Ca2+-entry in the myocyte activates BK channels, which generate outward positive current that tends to repolarize the membrane, limit Ca2+ entry and, thus, oppose contraction. Cholane-derived steroids (e.g., lithocholic acid, LC) reduce vascular tone in isolated, resistance-size rat cerebral arteries by selective activation of myocyte BK channels. In most tissues, native BK channels consist of pore-forming α (encoded by KCNMA1 or Slo1) and accessory β1–4 (encoded by KCNMB1–4) subunits. Remarkably, KCNMB expression is tissue-specific: while KCNMB1 is highly predominant in smooth muscle, KCNMB2–4 are not. Thus, agents that target BK β1 subunits may be used to selectively modulate myocyte BK channel function. After cloning the BK α subunit from rat cerebral artery myocytes (termed “cbv1”, AY330293), we demonstrated that homomeric cbv1 channel steady-state activity (NPo) was not affected by acute LC application. In contrast, heteromeric cbv1+β1 channel NPo was reversibly increased by LC (+290% of control at ECmax~150 μM; EC50=46 μM). Whether the other BK β subunits (2–4) can substitute for β1 to evoke LC-sensitivity in the BK channel remains unknown. To test this, we applied 150 μM LC to the intracellular side of inside-out patches excised from Xenopus laevis oocytes expressing cbv1 alone or cbv1 with a given BK β subunit subtype (1–4). Currents were evoked with the membrane clamped at ±20mV and free Ca2+i set to 10 μM, a concentration found in the cerebral artery myocyte during contraction. As previously found, LC consistently failed to increase homomeric cbv1 NPo, while drastically enhancing heteromeric cbv1+β1 channel NPo. Remarkably, LC failed to activate cbv1+β2, cbv1+β3 and cbv1+β4 heteromeric channels. In conclusion, the BK β1 (smooth muscle-type) subunit serves as a unique sensor for cholane-derived steroids. Thus, these compounds provide a platform for designing therapeutic agents to treat cardiovascular disease where reduction of vascular tone is required.