Large conductance K+ channels, termed BK channels, regulate a variety of cellular and physiological functions. Although universally activated by changes in voltage or [Ca2+]i, the threshold for BK channel activation varies among loci of expression, often arising from cell-specific regulatory subunits including a family of leucine rich repeat-containing (LRRC) γ subunits (LRRC26, LRRC52, LRRC55 and LRRC38). The ‘founding’ member of this family, LRRC26, was originally identified as a tumour suppressor in various cancers. An LRRC26 knockout (KO) mouse model recently revealed that LRRC26 is also highly expressed in secretory epithelial cells and partners with BK channels in the salivary gland and colonic goblet cells to promote sustained K+ fluxes likely essential for normal secretory function. To accomplish this, LRRC26 negatively shifts the range of BK channel activation such that channels contribute to K+ flux near typical epithelial cell resting conditions. In colon, the absence of LRRC26 increases vulnerability to colitis. LRRC26-containing BK channels are also likely important regulators of epithelial function in other loci, including airways, female reproductive tract and mammary gland. Based on an LRRC52 KO mouse model, LRRC52 regulation of large conductance K+ channels plays a role both in sperm function and in cochlear inner hair cells. Although our understanding of LRRC-containing BK channels remains rudimentary, KO mouse models may help define other organs in which LRRC-containing channels support normal function. A key topic for future work concerns identification of endogenous mechanisms, whether post-translational or via gene regulation, that may impact LRRC-dependent pathologies. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1371
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • BK channels
  • goblet cells
  • intestinal epithelium
  • leucine-rich-repeat proteins (LRR protein)
  • potassium ion channels
  • ulcerative colitis


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