Allosteric regulation of BK channel gating by Ca2+ and Mg2+ through a nonselective, low affinity divalent cation site

X. Zhang, C. R. Solaro, C. J. Lingle

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119 Scopus citations


The ability of membrane voltage to activate high conductance, calcium-activated (BK-type) K+ channels is enhanced by cytosolic calcium (Ca2+). Activation is sensitive to a range of [Ca2+] that spans over four orders of magnitude. Here, we examine the activation of BK channels resulting from expression of cloned mouse Slo1 α subunits at [Ca2+] and [Mg2+] up to 100 mM. The half-activation voltage (V0.5) is steeply dependent on [Ca2+] in the micromolar range, but shows a tendency towards saturation over the range of 60-300 μM Ca2+. As [Ca2+] is increased to millimolar levels, the V0.5 is strongly shifted again to more negative potentials. When channels are activated by 300 μM Ca2+, further addition of either mM Ca2+ or mM Mg2+ produces similar negative shifts in steady-state activation. Millimolar Mg2+ also produces shifts of similar magnitude in the complete absence of Ca2+. The ability of millimolar concentrations of divalent cations to shift activation is primarily correlated with a slowing of BK current deactivation. At voltages where millimolar elevations in ICa2+] increase activation rates, addition of 10 mM Mg2+ to 0 Ca2+ produces little effect on activation time course, while markedly slowing deactivation. This suggests that Mg2+ does not participate in Ca2+-dependent steps that influence current activation rate. We conclude that millimolar Mg2+ and Ca2+ concentrations interact with low affinity, relatively nonselective divalent cation binding sites that are distinct from higher affinity, Ca2+-selective binding sites that increase current activation rates. A symmetrical model with four independent higher affinity Ca2+ binding steps, four voltage sensors, and four independent lower affinity Ca2+/Mg2+ binding steps describes well the behavior of G-V curves over a range of Ca2+ and Mg2+. The ability of a broad range of [Ca2+] to produce shifts in activation of Slo1 conductance can, therefore, be accounted for by multiple types of divalent cation binding sites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-635
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2001


  • Ca- and voltage-gated K channels
  • Channel kinetics
  • K channels
  • Slol channels
  • Stochastic models


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