Immunological identification of an inward rectifier K+ channel (Kir4.1) in the intermediate cell (melanocyte) of the cochlear stria vascularis of gerbils and rats
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The cochlear stria vascularis produces the positive endocochlear potential (EP) and the endolymph. Both the EP and the endolymph are essential for the physiological function of hair cells. The intermediate cell is one of several cell types constituting the stria vascularis. It is known that inward rectifier K+ channels can play a constitutive role in the determination of the resting membrane potential. Localization of a member of the inward rectifier K+ channel family, Kir4.1, in the stria vascularis of gerbils and rats was investigated by immunological methods. A polyclonal antibody specific to the C-terminus of the rat Kir4.1 channel was raised in rabbits. Immunostaining of dissociated cells revealed that the Kir4.1 channel was localized to the intermediate cell, but not to the epithelial marginal cell. Subcellular localization of the Kir4.1 channel to the plasma membrane of the intermediate cell was confirmed by immunoelectron microscopy. Immunostaining of whole-tissue preparations revealed a network-like structure composed of intermediate cells. It seems likely that the Kir4.1 channel mediates the inwardly rectifying K+ current in the intermediate cell as shown previously by electrophysiological methods, and that this channel plays key roles in the production of the EP and K+ transport in the stria vascularis.
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