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Biophys J. 1997 Sep;73(3):1355-63.

A novel calcium-sensing domain in the BK channel.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The high-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel (mSlo) plays a vital role in regulating calcium entry in many cell types. mSlo channels behave like voltage-dependent channels, but their voltage range of activity is set by intracellular free calcium. The mSlo subunit has two parts: a "core" resembling a subunit from a voltage-dependent K+ channel, and an appended "tail" that plays a role in calcium sensing. Here we present evidence for a site on the tail that interacts with calcium. This site, the "calcium bowl," is a novel calcium-binding motif that includes a string of conserved aspartate residues. Mutations of the calcium bowl fall into two categories: 1) those that shift the position of the G-V relation a similar amount at all [Ca2+], and 2) those that shift the position of the G-V relation only at low [Ca2+]. None of these mutants alters the slope of the G-V curve. These mutant phenotypes are apparent in calcium ion, but not in cadmium ion, where mutant and wild type are indistinguishable. This suggests that the calcium bowl is sensitive to calcium ion, but insensitive to cadmium ion. The presence and independence of a second calcium-binding site is inferred because channels still respond to increasing levels of [Ca2+] or [Cd2+], even when the calcium bowl is mutationally deleted. Thus a low level of activation in the absence of divalent cations is identical in mutant and wild-type channels, possibly because of activation of this second Ca2+-binding site.

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