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J Physiol. 1992 Mar;448:599-612.

Role of ATP-sensitive K+ channels during anoxia: major differences between rat (newborn and adult) and turtle neurons.

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Department of Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


1. It is well known that anoxia induces an increase in extracellular K+. The underlying mechanisms for the increase, however, are not well understood. In the present study, we performed electrophysiological, pharmacological and receptor autoradiographic experiments in an attempt to examine K+ ionic homeostasis during anoxia. Ion-selective microelectrodes were employed to measure intracellular and extracellular K+ activity from hypoglossal neurons in brain slices. 2. During 3-4 min anoxia, adult hypoglossal neurons lose a large amount of their intracellular K+ and this contributes in a major way to the 8-fold increase in extracellular K+. 3. Loss of intracellular K+ from hypoglossal neurons is, to a great extent, due to activation of certain specific K+ channels. Glibenclamide, a potential sulphonylurea ligand and a specific blocker of ATP-sensitive K+ (KATP) channels, has no effect on K+ homeostasis during oxygenated states, but almost halves the anoxia-induced increase in extracellular K+ in the adult rat. 4. [3H]glibenclamide autoradiography shows that the hypoglossal nucleus in the adult rat has high sulphonylurea receptor density, a finding that is consistent with our electrophysiological observation. 5. Since we have previously shown that newborn mammals and reptiles are more resistant to O2 deprivation than adult mammals, we performed comparative studies among adult rat, newborn rat and adult turtle. In sharp contrast to the adult rat, extracellular K+ activity in newborn rat and adult turtle brain increases little (10 to 100 times less than the adult rat) and glibenclamide has a small and insignificant effect on K+ efflux in the newborn rat and none in the turtle. Glibenclamide receptor binding sites are much lower in the newborn rat than in the adult rat central nervous system (CNS) and barely detectable in the turtle brain. 6. These results support the hypothesis that in the adult rat, K+ is lost during anoxia from neurons through sulphonylurea receptor or KATP channels in a major way. Generally, however, KATP channels are poorly expressed in the newborn rat and adult turtle CNS and have little role to play during O2 deprivation.

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