Developmental differences in Ca2+-activated K+ channel activity in ovine basilar artery
Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated
A primary determinant of vascular smooth muscle (VSM) tone and contractility is the resting membrane potential, which, in turn, is influenced heavily by K+ channel activity. Previous studies from our laboratory and others have demonstrated differences in the contractility of cerebral arteries from near-term fetal and adult animals. To test the hypothesis that these contractility differences result from maturational changes in voltage-gated K+ channel function, we compared this function in VSM myocytes from adult and fetal sheep cerebral arteries. The primary current-carrying, voltage-gated K+ channels in VSM myocytes are the large conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channels (BKCa) and voltage-activated K+ (KV) channels. We observed that at voltage-clamped membrane potentials of +60 mV in perforated whole cell studies, the normalized outward current densities in fetal myocytes were >30% higher than in those of the adult (P < 0.05) and that these were predominantly due to iberiotoxin-sensitive currents from BKCa channels. Excised, insideout membrane patches revealed nearly identical unitary conductances and Hill coefficients for BKCa channels. The plot of log intracellular [Ca2+] ([Ca2+]i) versus voltage for half-maximal activation (V(1/2)) yielded linear and parallel relationships, and the change in V(1/2) for a 10-fold change in [Ca2+] was also similar. Channel activity increased e-fold for a 19 +/- 2-mV depolarization for adult myocytes and for an 18 +/- 1-mV depolarization for fetal myocytes (P > 0.05). However, the relationship between BKCa open probability and membrane potential had a relative leftward shift for the fetal compared with adult myocytes at different [Ca2+]i. The [Ca2+] for half-maximal activation (i.e., the calcium set points) at 0 mV were 8.8 and 4.7 microM for adult and fetal myocytes, respectively. Thus the increased BKCa current density in fetal myocytes appears to result from a lower calcium set point.