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J Theor Biol. 2000 Oct 21;206(4):561-84.

Microvillar ion channels: cytoskeletal modulation of ion fluxes.

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  • 1Kladower Damm 25b, 14089 Berlin, Germany.


The recently presented theory of microvillar Ca(2+)signaling [Lange, K. (1999) J. Cell. Physiol.180, 19-35], combined with Manning's theory of "condensed counterions" in linear polyelectrolytes [Manning, G. S. (1969). J. Chem. Phys.51, 924-931] and the finding of cable-like ion conductance in actin filaments [Lin, E. C. & Cantiello, H. F. (1993). Biophys. J.65, 1371-1378], allows a systematic interpretation of the role of the actin cytoskeleton in ion channel regulation. Ion conduction through actin filament bundles of microvilli exhibits unique nonlinear transmission properties some of which closely resemble that of electronic semiconductors: (1) bundles of microfilaments display significant resistance to cation conduction and (2) this resistance is decreased by supply of additional energy either as thermal, mechanical or electromagnetic field energy. Other transmission properties, however, are unique for ionic conduction in polyelectrolytes. (1) Current pulses injected into the filaments were transformed into oscillating currents or even into several discrete charge pulses closely resembling that of single-channel recordings. Discontinuous transmission is due to the existence of counterion clouds along the fixed anionic charge centers of the polymer, each acting as an "ionic capacitor". (2) The conductivity of linear polyelectrolytes strongly decreases with the charge number of the counterions; thus, Ca(2+)and Mg(2+)are effective modulator of charge transfer through linear polyelectrolytes. Field-dependent formation of divalent cation plugs on either side of the microvillar conduction line may generate the characteristic gating behavior of cation channels. (3) Mechanical movement of actin filament bundles, e.g. bending of hair cell microvilli, generates charge translocations along the filament structure (mechano-electrical coupling). (4) Energy of external fields, by inducing molecular dipoles within the polyelectrolyte matrix, can be transformed into mechanical movement of the system (electro-mechanical coupling). Because ionic transmission through linear polyelectrolytes is very slow compared with electronic conduction, only low-frequency electromagnetic fields can interact with the condensed counterion systems of linear polyelectrolytes. The delineated characteristics of microvillar ion conduction are strongly supported by the phenomenon of electro-mechanical coupling (reverse transduction) in microvilli of the audioreceptor (hair) cells and the recently reported dynamics of Ca(2+)signaling in microvilli of audio- and photoreceptor cells. Due to the cell-specific expression of different types and combinations of ion channels and transporters in the microvillar tip membrane of differentiated cells, the functional properties of this cell surface organelle are highly variable serving a multitude of different cellular functions including receptor-mediated effects such as Ca(2+)signaling, regulation of glucose and amino acid transport, as well as modulation of membrane potential. Even mechanical channel activation involved in cell volume regulation can be deduced from the systematic properties of the microvillar channel concept. In addition, the specific ion conduction properties of microfilaments combined with their proposed role in Ca(2+)signaling make microvilli the most likely cellular site for the interaction with external electric and magnetic fields.

Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

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