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Cell Tissue Res. 2003 Feb;311(2):131-8. Epub 2003 Feb 4.

Kir channels in the CNS: emerging new roles and implications for neurological diseases.

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Department of Neurology, Georg-August University, Robert-Koch-Str 40, 37075 Göttingen, Germany.


Inwardly rectifying potassium (Kir) channels have long been regarded as transmembrane proteins that regulate the membrane potential of neurons and that are responsible for [K(+)] siphoning in glial cells. The subunit diversity within the Kir channel family is growing rapidly and this is reflected in the multitude of roles that Kir channels play in the central nervous system (CNS). Kir channels are known to control cell differentiation, modify CNS hormone secretion, modulate neurotransmitter release in the nigrostriatal system, may act as hypoxia-sensors and regulate cerebral artery dilatation. The increasing availability of genetic mouse models that express inactive Kir channel subunits has opened new insights into their role in developing and adult mammalian tissues and during the course of CNS disorders. New aspects with respect to the role of Kir channels during CNS cell differentiation and neurogenesis are also emerging. Dysfunction of Kir channels in animal models can lead to severe phenotypes ranging from early postnatal death to an increased susceptibility to develop epileptic seizures. In this review, we summarize the in vivo data that demonstrate the role of Kir channels in regulating morphogenetic events, such as the proliferation, differentiation and survival of neurons and glial cells. We describe the way in which the gating of Kir channel subunits plays an important role in polygenic CNS diseases, such as white matter disease, epilepsy and Parkinson's disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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