Ether-a-go-go-related gene 3 is the main candidate for the E-4031-sensitive potassium current in the pacemaker interstitial cells of Cajal
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The interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), as pacemaker cells of the gut, contribute to rhythmic peristalsis and muscle excitability through initiation of slow-wave activity, which subsequently actively propagates into the musculature. An E-4031-sensitive K(+) current makes a critical contribution to membrane potential in ICC. This study provides novel features of this current in ICC in physiological solutions and seeks to identify the channel isoform. In situ hybridization and Kit immunohistochemistry were combined to assess ether-a-go-go-related gene (ERG) mRNA expression in ICC in mouse jejunum, while the translated message was assessed by immunofluorescence colocalization of ERG and Kit proteins. E-4031-sensitive currents in cultured ICC were studied by the whole cell patch-clamp method, with physiological K(+) concentration in the bath and the pipette. In situ hybridization combined with Kit immunohistochemistry detected m-erg1 and m-erg3, but not m-erg2, mRNA in ICC. ERG3 protein was colocalized with Kit-immunoreactive ICC in jejunum sections, but ERG1 protein was visualized only in the smooth muscle cells. At physiological K(+) concentration, the E-4031-sensitive outward current in ICC was different from its counterpart in cardiac and gut smooth muscle cells. In particular, inactivation upon depolarization and recovery from inactivation by hyperpolarization were modest in ICC. In summary, the E-4031-sensitive currents influence the kinetics of the pacemaker activity in ICC and contribute to maintenance of the resting membrane potential in smooth muscle cells, which together constitute a marked effect on tissue excitability. Whereas this current is mediated by ERG1 in smooth muscle, it is primarily mediated by ERG3 in ICC.
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