Potassium channels in pancreatic duct epithelial cells: their role, function and pathophysiological relevance
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- Venglovecz, V., Rakonczay, Z., Gray, M.A. et al. Pflugers Arch - Eur J Physiol (2015) 467: 625. doi:10.1007/s00424-014-1585-0
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Pancreatic ductal epithelial cells play a fundamental role in HCO3− secretion, a process which is essential for maintaining the integrity of the pancreas. Although several studies have implicated impaired HCO3− and fluid secretion as a triggering factor in the development of pancreatitis, the mechanism and regulation of HCO3− secretion is still not completely understood. To date, most studies on the ion transporters that orchestrate ductal HCO3− secretion have focussed on the role of Cl−/HCO3− exchangers and Cl− channels, whereas much less is known about the role of K+ channels. However, there is growing evidence that many types of K+ channels are present in ductal cells where they have an essential role in establishing and maintaining the electrochemical driving force for anion secretion. For this reason, strategies that increase K+ channel function may help to restore impaired HCO3− and fluid secretion, such as in pancreatitis, and therefore provide novel directions for future pancreatic therapy. In this review, our aims are to summarize the types of K+ channels found in pancreatic ductal cells and to discuss their individual roles in ductal HCO3− secretion. We will also describe how K+ channels are involved in pathophysiological conditions and discuss how they could act as new molecular targets for the development of therapeutic approaches to treat pancreatic diseases.