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Glia. 1998 Jul;23(3):209-20.

Spermine/spermidine is expressed by retinal glial (Müller) cells and controls distinct K+ channels of their membrane.

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Paul Flechsig Institute for Brain Research, Leipzig University, Germany.


There is recent evidence that polyamines such as spermine (spm) and spermidine (spd) may act as endogenous modulators of the activity of inwardly rectifying K+ channels. This type of K+ channels is abundantly expressed by retinal glial (Müller) cells where they are involved in important glial cell functions such as the clearance of excess extracellular K+ ions. This prompted us to study the following questions, i) do mammalian Müller cells contain endogenous spm/spd?; ii) do Müller cells possess the enzymes (e.g., ornithine decarboxylase, ODC) necessary to produce spm/spd?; and iii) does application of exogenous spm/spd exert specific effects onto inwardly rectifying K+ channels of Müller cells? Immunocytochemical studies were performed on histological sections of guinea-pig, rabbit, porcine, and human retinae, and on enzymatically dissociated Müller cells. Whole-cell and patch-clamp recordings were performed on enzymatically dissociated porcine and guinea-pig Müller cells. All above-mentioned questions could be answered with "yes." Specifically, the majority of Müller cells were labeled with antibodies directed to spm/spd, both within retinal sections and enzymatically isolated from retinal tissue. Müller cells in normal retinae express low levels of ODC but increase this expression markedly in cases of retinal pathology such as experimental epiretinal melanoma. Externally applied polyamines (1 mM) reduce (predominantly inward) whole-cell K+ currents, with the efficacies being spm > spd > put. If applied at the inside of membrane patches, spm (1 mM) blocks completely the outward currents through inwardly rectifying K+ channels but fails to affect the activity of large conductance, Ca2+-activated K+ channels. It is concluded that Müller cells contain endogenous channel-active polyamines, the synthesis of which may be up-regulated in pathological situations, and which may be involved in the control of both glial function and cell proliferation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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