Although many K+ channel genes encoding homologous subunits have been cloned, a central question remains: how do these subunits associate to produce the diversity of K+ currents observed in living cells? Previous work has shown that different subunits encoded by the Shaker gene subfamily are able to form heteromultimers, which add to the diversity of currents. However, the unrestrained mixing of subunits from all genes to form hybrid channels would be undesirable for some cells that clearly require functionally discrete K+ currents. We show that Drosophila Shaker, Shal, Shab, and Shaw subunits form functional homomultimers, but that a molecular barrier to heteropolymerization is present. Coexpression of all four K+ channel systems does not alter their individual properties in any way. These experiments also demonstrate that multiple, independent A-current systems together with multiple, independent delayed rectifier systems can coexist in single cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-773
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1991


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