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Site used by sodium to control sensitivity of certain potassium ion channels
Date:9/18/2008

hese sodium-sensitive channels are expressed and how sodium may be critical for the function of these cells, we hope to uncover the physiological importance of sodium-mediated activation of potassium channels," Logothetis said. Cells in the kidney and specific areas in the brain express the Kir5.1 channel, he added. In kidney cells, the Kir channel is expressed in cells that are responsible for reabsorbing sodium, a process relevant in hypertension as sodium and water are retained in blood vessels.

One critical characteristic of the sodium-reabsorbing kidney cells is that they maintain a negative-membrane potential, meaning the inside is more negative than the outside, which creates a driving force for sodium entry into the cells. This negative membrane potential is accomplished by potassium flowing out of the cell through potassium channels.

If Kir5.1 is linked to sodium reabsorption, then malfunctions of this channel could interfere with the sodium uptake mechanisms from blood vessels through the kidney cells and lead to hypertension. Logothetis and his collaborators in New York and Oxford, England, are in the process of testing this hypothesis.

"Once we understand the importance of sodium regulation of ion channels, then we can start thinking about how we design drugs that may mimic the net effect of sodium regulation of channel activity and ultimately help any pathophysiology dependent on these processes," he said.


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Contact: Sathy Achia Abraham
sbachia@vcu.edu
804-827-0890
Virginia Commonwealth University
Source:Eurekalert

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