, Volume 65, Issue 20, pp 3196-3217,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 04 Jul 2008

Molecular and cellular basis of small- and intermediate-conductance, calcium-activated potassium channel function in the brain


Small conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK or KCa2) channels link intracellular calcium transients to membrane potential changes. SK channel subtypes present different pharmacology and distribution in the nervous system. The selective blocker apamin, SK enhancers and mice lacking specific SK channel subunits have revealed multifaceted functions of these channels in neurons, glia and cerebral blood vessels. SK channels regulate neuronal firing by contributing to the afterhyperpolarization following action potentials and mediating IAHP, and partake in a calcium-mediated feedback loop with NMDA receptors, controlling the threshold for induction of hippocampal long-term potentiation. The function of distinct SK channel subtypes in different neurons often results from their specific coupling to different calcium sources. The prominent role of SK channels in the modulation of excitability and synaptic function of limbic, dopaminergic and cerebellar neurons hints at their possible involvement in neuronal dysfunction, either as part of the causal mechanism or as potential therapeutic targets.

Received 23 April 2008; received after revision 29 May 2008; accepted 4 June 2008