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Modifications of current properties by expression of a foreign potassium channel gene in Xenopus embryonic cells

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The development of excitable cells is characterized by highly organized patterns of expression of ion channels. During the terminal differentiation Xenopus muscle somites, potassium currents are expressed first just after Stage 15 (early-mid neurula), following a long period during which no voltage-dependent currents can be detected in any cell in the dorsal embryo. We have investigated whether early expression of a foreign delayed rectifier potassium channel may affect this endogenous pattern of electrical development. We injected the purified cRNA of the mammalian brain Shaker-like potassium channel, Kv1.1, into fertilized Xenopus eggs. The resulting currents were analyzed in blastomeres during a 12-hr period prior to Stage 15 and in differentiating muscle cells after Stage 15. In injected embryos, a high fraction of blastomeres expressed a delayed rectifier-type current. The Kv1.1 current could be distinguished from the endogenous muscle delayed potassium current (I K,X) by its very different voltage dependence. Separation of currents based on this difference indicated that, in injected embryos, I K,X appeared much earlier in development than in control embryos. Furthermore, even in cells which expressed solely Kv1.1-type current, the sensitivity of the current to dendrotoxin declined dramatically during development, approaching that of I K,X . These data suggest an interaction between Kv1.1 and endogenous channel subunits, and/or modification of the Kv1.1 protein by the embryonic cells in ways not seen in Xenopus oocytes or mammalian cell lines.

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The work was supported by NSF (BNS 8910254) and The Wellcome Trust (037233).

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Spruce, A.E., Moody, W.J. Modifications of current properties by expression of a foreign potassium channel gene in Xenopus embryonic cells. J. Membarin Biol. 148, 255–262 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00235043

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Key words

  • K channel
  • Heterologous expression
  • Electrical development
  • Muscle
  • Patch clamp
  • Embryo
  • Xenopus laevis