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J Gen Physiol. 2011 May;137(5):441-54. doi: 10.1085/jgp.201110604.

SUMO modification of cell surface Kv2.1 potassium channels regulates the activity of rat hippocampal neurons.

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Department of Pediatrics and Institute for Molecular Pediatric Sciences, Biological Sciences Division, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Voltage-gated Kv2.1 potassium channels are important in the brain for determining activity-dependent excitability. Small ubiquitin-like modifier proteins (SUMOs) regulate function through reversible, enzyme-mediated conjugation to target lysine(s). Here, sumoylation of Kv2.1 in hippocampal neurons is shown to regulate firing by shifting the half-maximal activation voltage (V(1/2)) of channels up to 35 mV. Native SUMO and Kv2.1 are shown to interact within and outside channel clusters at the neuronal surface. Studies of single, heterologously expressed Kv2.1 channels show that only K470 is sumoylated. The channels have four subunits, but no more than two non-adjacent subunits carry SUMO concurrently. SUMO on one site shifts V(1/2) by 15 mV, whereas sumoylation of two sites produces a full response. Thus, the SUMO pathway regulates neuronal excitability via Kv2.1 in a direct and graded manner.

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