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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Mar 19;110(12):4822-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1222003110. Epub 2013 Mar 4.

Mechanism of the modulation of BK potassium channel complexes with different auxiliary subunit compositions by the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

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Department of Physiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Large-conductance Ca(2+)- and voltage-activated K(+) (BK) channels are well known for their functional versatility, which is bestowed in part by their rich modulatory repertoire. We recently showed that long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in oily fish lower blood pressure by activating vascular BK channels made of Slo1+β1 subunits. Here we examined the action of DHA on BK channels with different auxiliary subunit compositions. Neuronal Slo1+β4 channels were just as well activated by DHA as vascular Slo1+β1 channels. In contrast, the stimulatory effect of DHA was much smaller in Slo1+β2, Slo1+LRRC26 (γ1), and Slo1 channels without auxiliary subunits. Mutagenesis of β1, β2, and β4 showed that the large effect of DHA in Slo1+β1 and Slo1+β4 is conferred by the presence of two residues, one in the N terminus and the other in the first transmembrane segment of the β1 and β4 subunits. Transfer of this amino acid pair from β1 or β4 to β2 introduces a large response to DHA in Slo1+β2. The presence of a pair of oppositely charged residues at the aforementioned positions in β subunits is associated with a large response to DHA. The Slo1 auxiliary subunits are expressed in a highly tissue-dependent fashion. Thus, the subunit composition-dependent stimulation by DHA demonstrates that BK channels are effectors of omega-3 fatty acids with marked tissue specificity.

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