Complex expression and localization of inactivating Kv channels in cultured hippocampal astrocytes.J Neurophysiol 2005; 93(3):1699-709JN
Voltage-gated potassium channels are well established as critical for setting action potential frequency, membrane potential, and neurotransmitter release in neurons. However, their role in the "nonexcitable" glial cell type is yet to be fully understood. We used whole cell current kinetics, pharmacology, immunocytochemistry, and RT-PCR to characterize A-type current in hippocampal astrocyte cultures to better understand its function. Pharmacological analysis suggests that approximately 70, 10, and <5% of total A current is associated with Kv4, Kv3, and Kv1 channels, respectively. In addition, pharmacology and kinetics provide evidence for a significant contribution of KChIP accessory proteins to astrocytic A-channel composition. Localization of the Shaw Kv3.4 channel to astrocytic processes and the Shal Kv4.3 channel to soma suggest that these channels serve a specific function. Given this complex A-type channel expression pattern, we assessed the role of A currents in membrane voltage oscillations in response to current injections. Although TEA-sensitive delayed-rectifying currents are involved in the extent of repolarization, 4-AP-sensitive A currents serve to increase the rate. As in neurons, this effect may enable astrocytes to respond rapidly to high-frequency synaptic events. Our results indicate that hippocampal astrocytes in vitro express multiple A-type Kv channel alpha-subunits with accessory, possibly Ca(2+)-sensitive, cytoplasmic subunits that appear to be specifically localized to subcellular membrane compartments. Function of these channels remains to be determined in a physiological setting. However, this study suggests that they enable astrocytes to respond rapidly with membrane voltage oscillations to high-frequency incoming signals, possibly synchronizing astrocyte function to neuronal activity.