The ATP-sensitive K+-channel (KATP) controls early left-right patterning in Xenopus and chick embryos

Sherry Aw, Joseph C. Koster, Wade Pearson, Colin G. Nichols, Nian Qing Shi, Katia Carneiro, Michael Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Consistent left-right asymmetry requires specific ion currents. We characterize a novel laterality determinant in Xenopus laevis: the ATP-sensitive K+-channel (KATP). Expression of specific dominant-negative mutants of the Xenopus Kir6.1 pore subunit of the KATP channel induced randomization of asymmetric organ positioning. Spatio-temporally controlled loss-of-function experiments revealed that the KATP channel functions asymmetrically in LR patterning during very early cleavage stages, and also symmetrically during the early blastula stages, a period when heretofore largely unknown events transmit LR patterning cues. Blocking KATP channel activity randomizes the expression of the left-sided transcription of Nodal. Immunofluorescence analysis revealed that XKir6.1 is localized to basal membranes on the blastocoel roof and cell-cell junctions. A tight junction integrity assay showed that KATP channels are required for proper tight junction function in early Xenopus embryos. We also present evidence that this function may be conserved to the chick, as inhibition of KATP in the primitive streak of chick embryos randomizes the expression of the left-sided gene Sonic hedgehog. We propose a model by which KATP channels control LR patterning via regulation of tight junctions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-53
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopmental Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • K channels
  • Kir6.1
  • Left-right asymmetry
  • Tight junctions
  • Xenopus


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