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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 16;860:281-95.

Differential expression and targeting of K+ channel genes in the lobster pyloric central pattern generator.

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Section of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. D_BARO@RCMACA.UPR.CLU.EDU


A molecular analysis of motor pattern generation is an essential complement to electrophysiological and computational investigations. In arthropods, A-channels are posttranslationally modified multimeric proteins containing Shaker family alpha-subunits that may interact with beta-subunits, gamma-subunits, and other auxiliary proteins. One consequence of A-channel structure is that several mechanisms could underlie the cell-specific differences in pyloric IAs including differential gene expression, alternate splicing, and posttranslational modifications. Oocyte expression studies, single-cell RT-PCR, and immunocytochemistry suggest that differential alpha-subunit gene expression is not a mechanism for creating pyloric IA heterogeneity, and that the same gene, shal, encodes the alpha-subunits for the entire family of somatic IAs in the pyloric network. Changes in the level of shal gene expression alter A-channel density between cells, but cannot account for the differences in the biophysical properties of the six pyloric IAs. Preliminary data suggest that the shal gene also encodes the A-channel alpha-subunits for the coarse and fine neuropil but not for most axons. A second gene, shaker, encodes the A-channel alpha-subunits in the majority of axons and at the neuromuscular junction. The distinct properties of the two types of A-channels are consistent with the different roles of IA at the different locations. Both the shaker and shal genes are alternately spliced, and investigations are under way to determine whether alternate splicing is a mechanism for generating pyloric IA heterogeneity.

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