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Channels (Austin). 2009 Jan-Feb;3(1):16-24. Epub 2009 Jan 7.

KCNE variants reveal a critical role of the beta subunit carboxyl terminus in PKA-dependent regulation of the IKs potassium channel.

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Department of Bio-Informational Pharmacology, Medical Research Institute, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Tokyo, Japan.


Co-assembly of KCNQ1 with different accessory, or beta, subunits that are members of the KCNE family results in potassium (K+) channels that conduct functionally distinct currents. The alpha subunit KCNQ1 conducts a slowly activated delayed rectifier K+ current (IKs), a major contributor to cardiac repolarization, when co-assembled with KCNE1 and channels that favor the open state when co-assembled with either KCNE2 or KCNE3. In the heart, stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system enhances IKs. A macromolecular signaling complex of the IKs channel including the targeting protein Yotiao coordinates up or downregulation of channel activity by protein kinase A (PKA) phosphorylation and dephosphorylation of molecules in the complex. beta-adrenergic receptor mediated IKs upregulation, a functional consequence of PKA phosphorylation of the KCNQ1 amino terminus (N-T), requires co-expression of KCNQ1/Yotiao with KCNE1. Here, we report that co-expression of KCNE2, like KCNE1, confers a functional channel response to KCNQ1 phosphorylation, but co-expression of KCNE3 does not. Amino acid sequence comparison among the KCNE peptides, and KCNE1 truncation experiments, reveal a segment of the predicted intracellular KCNE1 carboxyl terminus (C-T) that is necessary for functional transduction of PKA phosphorylated KCNQ1. Moreover, chimera analysis reveals a region of KCNE1 sufficient to confer cAMP-dependent functional regulation upon the KCNQ1_KCNE3_Yotiao channel. The property of specific beta subunits to transduce post-translational regulation of alpha subunits of ion channels adds another dimension to our understanding molecular mechanisms underlying the diversity of regulation of native K+ channels.

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