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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Jun;83(6):3277-86.

Bovine versus rat adrenal chromaffin cells: big differences in BK potassium channel properties.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA.


Both bovine and rat adrenal chromaffin cells have served as pioneering model systems in cellular neurophysiology, including in the study of large conductance calcium- and voltage-dependent K(+) (BK) channels. We now report that while BK channels dominate the outward current profile of both species, specific gating properties vary widely across cell populations, and the distributions of these properties differ dramatically between species. Although BK channels were first described in bovine chromaffin cells, rapidly inactivating ones were discovered in rat chromaffin cells. We report that bovine cells can also exhibit inactivating BK channels with varying properties similar to those in rat cells. However, a much smaller proportion of bovine cells exhibit inactivating BK current, the proportion of the total current that inactivates is usually smaller, and the rate of inactivation is often much slower. Other gating features differ as well; the voltage dependence of channel activation is much more positive for bovine cells, and their rates of activation and deactivation are faster and slower, respectively. Modeling studies suggest that channel heterogeneity is consistent with varying tetrameric combinations of inactivation-competent versus -incompetent subunits. The results suggest that chromaffin BK channel functional nuances represent an important level for evolutionary tailoring of autonomic stress responses.

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