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J Physiol. 2011 Mar 15;589(Pt 6):1489-503. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.200295. Epub 2011 Jan 24.

Functional and developmental expression of a zebrafish Kir1.1 (ROMK) potassium channel homologue Kcnj1.

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Department of Biomedical Science, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK.


The zebrafish, Danio rerio, is emerging as an important model organism for the pathophysiological study of some human kidney diseases, but the sites of expression and physiological roles of a number of protein orthologues in the zebrafish nephron remain mostly undefined. Here we show that a zebrafish potassium channel is orthologous to the mammalian kidney potassium channel, ROMK. The cDNA (kcnj1) encodes a protein (Kcnj1) that when expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes displayed pH- and Ba2+-sensitive K+-selective currents, but unlike the mammalian channel, was completely insensitive to the peptide inhibitor tertiapin-Q. In the pronephros, kcnj1 transcript expression was restricted to a distal region and overlapped with that of sodium–chloride cotransporter Nkcc, chloride channel ClC-Ka, and ClC-Ka/b accessory subunit Barttin, indicating the location of the diluting segment. In a subpopulation of surface cells, kcnj1 was coexpressed with the a1a.4 isoform of the Na+/K+-ATPase, identifying these cells as potential K+ secretory cells in this epithelium. At later stages of development, kcnj1 appeared in cells of the developing gill that also expressed the a1a.4 subunit.Morpholino antisense-mediated knockdown of kcnj1 was accompanied by transient tachycardia followed by bradycardia, effects consistent with alterations in extracellular K+ concentration in the embryo.Our findings indicate that Kcnj1 is expressed in cells associated with osmoregulation and acts as a K+ efflux pathway that is important in maintaining extracellular levels of K+ in the developing embryo.

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