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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Apr;986:354-9.

Functional roles of the alpha isoforms of the Na,K-ATPase.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, and Microbiology, University of Cincinnati, Ohio 45267-0524, USA.


The Na,K-ATPase is composed of two subunits, alpha and beta, and each subunit consists of multiple isoforms. In the case of alpha, four isoforms, alpha1, alpha2, alpha3, and alpha4 are present in mammalian cells. The distribution of these isoforms is tissue- and developmental-specific, suggesting that they may play specific roles, either during development or coupled to specific physiological processes. In order to understand the functional properties of each of these isoforms, we are using gene targeting, where animals are produced lacking either one copy or both copies of the corresponding gene or have a modified gene. To date, we have produced animals lacking the alpha1 and alpha2 isoform genes. Animals lacking both copies of the alpha1 isoform gene are not viable, while animals lacking both copies of the alpha2 isoform gene make it to birth, but are either born dead or die very soon after. In the case of animals lacking one copy of the alpha1 or alpha2 isoform gene, the animals survive and appear healthy. Heart and EDL muscle from animals lacking one copy of the alpha2 isoform exhibit an increase in force of contraction, while there is reduced force of contraction in both muscles from animals lacking one copy of the alpha1 isoform gene. These studies indicate that the alpha1 and alpha2 isoforms carry out different physiological roles. The alpha2 isoform appears to be involved in regulating Ca(2+) transients involved in muscle contraction, while the alpha1 isoform probably plays a more generalized role. While we have not yet knocked out the alpha3 or alpha4 isoform genes, studies to date indicate that the alpha4 isoform is necessary to maintain sperm motility. It is thus possible that the alpha2, alpha3, and alpha4 isoforms are involved in specialized functions of various tissues, helping to explain their tissue- and developmental-specific regulation.

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