The Role of MaxiK Channels in Carotid Body Chemotransduction

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MaxiK channels are a unique class of K+ channels activated by both voltage and intracellular Ca2+. Derived from a single gene, their diversity arises from extensive splicing, and their wide distribution has led to their implication in a large variety of cellular functions. In the carotid body, they have been proposed to contribute to the resting membrane potential of type I cells, and also to be O2 sensitive. Thus, they have been suggested to have an important role in hypoxic chemotransduction. Their O2 sensitivity is preserved when the channels are expressed in HEK 293 cells, permitting detailed studies of candidate mechanisms underlying hypoxic inhibition of maxiK channels. In this article, we review evidence for and against an important role for maxiK channels in chemotransduction. We also consider different mechanisms proposed to account for hypoxic channel inhibition and suggest that, although our understanding of this important physiological process has advanced significantly in recent years, there remain important, unanswered questions as to the importance of maxiK in carotid body chemoreception.



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