Spermine block of the strong inward rectifier potassium channel Kir2.1: Dual roles of surface charge screening and pore block

Lai Hua Xie, Scott A. John, James N. Weiss

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63 Scopus citations


Inward rectification in strong inward rectifiers such as Kir2.1 is attributed to voltage-dependent block by intracellular polyamines and Mg2+. Block by the polyamine spermine has a complex voltage dependence with shallow and steep components and complex concentration dependence. To understand the mechanism, we measured macroscopic Kir2.1 currents in excised inside-out giant patches from Xenopus oocytes expressing Kir2.1, and single channel currents in the inside-out patches from COS7 cells transfected with Kir2.1. We found that as spermine concentration or voltage increased, the shallow voltage-dependent component of spermine block at more negative voltages was caused by progressive reduction in the single channel current amplitude, without a decrease in open probability. We attributed this effect to spermine screening negative surface charges involving E224 and E299 near the inner vestibule of the channel, thereby reducing K ion permeation rate. This idea was further supported by experiments in which increasing ionic strength also decreased Kir2.1 single channel amplitude, and by mutagenesis experiments showing that this component of spermine block decreased when E224 and E299, but not D172, were neutralized. The steep voltage-dependent component of block at more depolarized voltages was attributed to spermine migrating deeper into the pore and causing fast open channel block. A quantitative model incorporating both features showed excellent agreement with the steady-state and kinetic data. In addition, this model accounts for previously described substate behavior induced by a variety of Kir2.1 channel blockers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-66
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of General Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology


  • Inward rectification
  • K channels
  • Modeling
  • Polyamine
  • Spermine


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