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Potassium channels act as chemosensors for solute transporters


Potassium channels form physical complexes with solute transporters in vivo, yet little is known about their range of possible signaling modalities and the underlying mechanisms. The KCNQ2/3 potassium channel, which generates neuronal M-current, is voltage-gated and its activity is also stimulated by binding of various small molecules. KCNQ2/3 forms reciprocally regulating complexes with sodium-coupled myo-inositol transporters (SMITs) in mammalian neurons. Here, we report that the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and other small molecules directly regulate myo-inositol transport in rat dorsal root ganglia, and by human SMIT1-KCNQ2/3 complexes in vitro, by inducing a distinct KCNQ2/3 pore conformation. Reciprocally, SMIT1 tunes KCNQ2/3 sensing of GABA and related metabolites. Ion permeation and mutagenesis studies suggest that SMIT1 and GABA similarly alter KCNQ2/3 pore conformation but via different KCNQ subunits and molecular mechanisms. KCNQ channels therefore act as chemosensors to enable co-assembled myo-inositol transporters to respond to diverse stimuli including neurotransmitters, metabolites and drugs.

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