Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels

  • Hiroaki KumeEmail author


Large-conductanceCa2+-activated K+ (BKCa, MaxiK) channels are abundantly distributed on the cell membrane and ubiquitously expressed in a variety of tissues except cardiac muscle. These channels have a conductance of approximately 250 pS and are intracellular Ca2+- and membrane potential-sensitive. Activation of these channels causes membrane hyperpolarization mediated by an increase in outward K+ currents, leading to a reduction in tension in smooth muscle such as vessels and airways. The BKCa channels are a tetramer of a pore-forming α-subunit encoded by a single gene (Slo, KCNMA1) associated with modulatory β-subunits (KCNMB1-4). The α-subunit consists of a transmembrane (TM) domain-sensing membrane potential and conducting ion, and a cytoplasmic domain-sensing Ca2+. The β-subunits comprise two TMs, and their expression is tissue specific. In smooth muscle cells, the BKCa channels are markedly activated due to increased local Ca2+ concentrations via Ca2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (Ca2+ sparks). The coupling of Ca2+ sparks to hundreds of BKCa channels causes spontaneous outward currents (STOCs), leading to relaxation via membrane hyperpolarization. The activity and expression of the BKCa channels are modulated by a variety of factors such as phosphorylation (e.g., protein kinase A, protein kinase G) and other metabolites (e.g., reactive oxygen species, estrogen, nitric oxide). Therefore, altered BKCa channels play a key role in vital body functions (e.g., development, pregnancy) and diseases (e.g., hypertension, diabetes). These channels may be a therapeutic target for a variety of diseases.


BKCa channels MaxiK channels STOCs β-adrenergic receptors Muscarinic receptors Patch-clamp techniques Protein Kinase A Protein Kinase G Ca2+ sparks 



20-Hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid





AF-DX 116

11-[[2-[(Diethylamino)methyl]-1-piperidinyl]acetyl]-5,11-dihydro-6H-pyrido[2,3-b][1, 4]benzodiazepin-6-one


Adenosine triphosphate

BKCa channels

Large-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels


Cyclic adenosine monophosphate




Cyclic guanosine monophosphate




Epoxyeicosatrienoic acids


Guanosine 5′-O-(2-thio-diphoshate)


Inhibitory G protein of adenylyl cyclase


Stimulatory G protein of adenylyl cyclase


Guanosine triphosphate


Guanosine 5′-O-(3-thiotriphosphate)




Inositol triphosphate




Nitric oxide


Open probability of ion channels


Protein kinase A


Protein kinase C


Protein kinase G


Reactive oxygen species


Ryanodine receptors


Sarcoplasmic reticulum


Spontaneous outward currents




α-subunit of Gs


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Respiratory Medicine and AllergologyKinki University Faculty of MedicineOsakasayamaJapan

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