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J Neurosci. 1999 Dec 15;19(24):10789-802.

Cloning of components of a novel subthreshold-activating K(+) channel with a unique pattern of expression in the cerebral cortex.

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Department of Physiology, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York, 10016, USA.


Potassium channels that are open at very negative membrane potentials govern the subthreshold behavior of neurons. These channels contribute to the resting potential and help regulate the degree of excitability of a neuron by affecting the impact of synaptic inputs and the threshold for action potential generation. They can have large influences on cell behavior even when present at low concentrations because few conductances are active at these voltages. We report the identification of a new K(+) channel pore-forming subunit of the ether-à-go-go (Eag) family, named Eag2, that expresses voltage-gated K(+) channels that have significant activation at voltages around -100 mV. Eag2 expresses outward-rectifying, non-inactivating voltage-dependent K(+) currents resembling those of Eag1, including a strong dependence of activation kinetics on prepulse potential. However, Eag2 currents start activating at subthreshold potentials that are 40-50 mV more negative than those reported for Eag1. Because they activate at such negative voltages and do not inactivate, Eag2 channels will contribute sustained outward currents down to the most negative membrane potentials known in neurons. Although Eag2 mRNA levels in whole brain appear to be low, they are highly concentrated in a few neuronal populations, most prominently in layer IV of the cerebral cortex. This highly restricted pattern of cortical expression is unlike that of any other potassium channel cloned to date and may indicate specific roles for this channel in cortical processing. Layer IV neurons are the main recipient of the thalamocortical input. Given their functional properties and specific distribution, Eag2 channels may play roles in the regulation of the behavioral state-dependent entry of sensory information to the cerebral cortex.

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