Phase-resetting curve determines how BK currents affect neuronal firing.
ABSTRACT BK channels are large conductance potassium channels gated by calcium and voltage. Paradoxically, blocking these channels has been shown experimentally to increase or decrease the firing rate of neurons, depending on the neural subtype and brain region. The mechanism for how this current can alter the firing rates of different neurons remains poorly understood. Using phase-resetting curve (PRC) theory, we determine when BK channels increase or decrease the firing rates in neural models. The addition of BK currents always decreases the firing rate when the PRC has only a positive region. When the PRC has a negative region (type II), BK currents can increase the firing rate. The influence of BK channels on firing rate in the presence of other conductances, such as I(m) and I(h), as well as with different amplitudes of depolarizing input, were also investigated. These results provide a formal explanation for the apparently contradictory effects of BK channel antagonists on firing rates.
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ABSTRACT: The BK channel is a Ca(2+) and voltage-gated conductance responsible for shaping action potential waveforms in many types of neurons. Type II BK channels are differentiated from type I channels by their pharmacology and slow gating kinetics. The β4 accessory subunit confers type II properties on BK α subunits. Empirically derived properties of BK channels, with and without the β4 accessory subunit, were obtained using a heterologous expression system under physiological ionic conditions. These data were then used to study how BK channels alone (type I) and with the accessory β4 subunit (type II) modulate action potential properties in biophysical neuron models. Overall, the models support the hypothesis that it is the slower kinetics provided by the β4 subunit that endows the BK channel with type II properties, which leads to broadening of action potentials and, secondarily, to greater recruitment of SK channels reducing neuronal excitability. Two regions of parameter space distinguished type II and type I effects; one where the range of BK-activating Ca(2+) was high (>20 μM) and the other where BK-activating Ca(2+) was low (∼0.4-1.2 μM). The latter required an elevated BK channel density, possibly beyond a likely physiological range. BK-mediated sharpening of the spike waveform associated with the lack of the β4 subunit was sensitive to the properties of voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels due to electrogenic effects on spike duration. We also found that depending on Ca(2+) dynamics, type II BK channels may have the ability to contribute to the medium AHP, a property not generally ascribed to BK channels, influencing the frequency-current relationship. Finally, we show how the broadening of action potentials conferred by type II BK channels can also indirectly increase the recruitment of SK-type channels decreasing the excitability of the neuron.Neuroscience 06/2011; 192:205-18. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.06.028 · 3.33 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Large-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels (BK) are potent negative regulators of excitability in neurons and muscle, and increasing BK current is a novel therapeutic strategy for neuro- and cardioprotection, disorders of smooth muscle hyperactivity, and several psychiatric diseases. However, in some neurons, enhanced BK current is linked with seizures and paradoxical increases in excitability, potentially complicating the clinical use of agonists. The mechanisms that switch BK influence from inhibitory to excitatory are not well defined. Here we investigate this dichotomy using a gain-of-function subunit (BK(R207Q)) to enhance BK currents. Heterologous expression of BK(R207Q) generated currents that activated at physiologically relevant voltages in lower intracellular Ca(2+), activated faster, and deactivated slower than wild-type currents. We then used BK(R207Q) expression to broadly augment endogenous BK currents in vivo, generating a transgenic mouse from a circadian clock-controlled Period1 gene fragment (Tg-BK(R207Q)). The specific impact on excitability was assessed in neurons of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the hypothalamus, a cell type where BK currents regulate spontaneous firing under distinct day and night conditions that are defined by different complements of ionic currents. In the SCN, Tg-BK(R207Q) expression converted the endogenous BK current to fast-activating, while maintaining similar current-voltage properties between day and night. Alteration of BK currents in Tg-BK(R207Q) SCN neurons increased firing at night but decreased firing during the day, demonstrating that BK currents generate bidirectional effects on neuronal firing under distinct conditions.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2012; 109(46). DOI:10.1073/pnas.1205573109 · 9.81 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: While most large-conductance, calcium-, and voltage-activated potassium channels (BK or Maxi-K type) are blocked by the scorpion venom iberiotoxin, the so-called "type II" subtype has the property of toxin resistance. This property is uniquely mediated by channel assembly with one member of the BK accessory β subunit family, the neuron-enriched β4 subunit. This review will focus on current understanding of iberiotoxin-resistant, β4-containing BK channel properties and their function in the CNS. Studies have shown that β4 dramatically promotes BK channel opening by shifting voltage sensor activation to more negative voltage ranges, but also slows activation to timescales that theoretically preclude BK ability to shape action potentials (APs). In addition, β4 membrane trafficking is regulated through an endoplasmic retention signal and palmitoylation. More recently, the challenge has been to understand the functional role of the iberiotoxin-resistant BK subtype utilizing computational modeling of neurons and neurophysiological approaches. Utilizing iberiotoxin-resistance as a footprint for these channels, they have been identified in dentate gyrus granule neurons and in purkinje neurons of the cerebellum. In these neurons, the role of these channels is largely consistent with slow-gated channels that reduce excitability either through an interspike conductance, such as in purkinje neurons, or by replacing fast-gating BK channels that otherwise facilitate high frequency AP firing, such as in dentate gyrus neurons. They are also observed in presynaptic mossy fiber terminals of the dentate gyrus and posterior pituitary terminals. More recent studies suggest that β4 subunits may also be expressed in some neurons lacking iberiotoxin-resistant BK channels, such as in CA3 hippocampus neurons. Ongoing research using novel, specific blockers and agonists of BK/β4, and β4 knockout mice, will continue to move the field forward in understanding the function of these channels.Frontiers in Physiology 10/2014; 5:382. DOI:10.3389/fphys.2014.00382