Large-conductance, voltage-and Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels display near linear current-voltage (I-V) plots for voltages between 100 and +100 mV, with an increasing sublinearity for more positive potentials. As is the case for many types of channels, BK channels are blocked at positive potentials by intracellular Ca2+ and Mg2+. This fast block progressively reduces single-channel conductance with increasing voltage, giving rise to a negative slope in the I-V plots beyond about +120 mV, depending on the concentration of the blockers. In contrast to these observations of pronounced differences in the magnitudes and shapes of I-V plots in the absence and presence of intracellular blockers, Schroeder and Hansen (2007. J. Gen. Physiol. http://dx.doi.org/10.1085/jgp.200709802) have reported identical I-V plots in the absence and presence of blockers for BK channels, with both plots having reduced conductance and negative slopes, as expected for blockers. Schroeder and Hansen included both Ca2+ and Mg2+ in the intracellular solution rather than a single blocker, and they also studied BK channels expressed from plus 1 subunits, whereas most previous studies used only subunits. Although it seems unlikely that these experimental differences would account for the differences in findings between previous studies and those of Schroeder and Hansen, we repeated the experiments using BK channels comprised of plus 1 subunits with joint application of 2.5 mM Ca2+ plus 2.5 mM Mg2+, as Schroeder and Hansen did. In contrast to the findings of Schroeder and Hansen of identical I-V plots, we found marked differences in the single-channel I-V plots in the absence and presence of blockers. Consistent with previous studies, we found near linear I-V plots in the absence of blockers and greatly reduced currents and negative slopes in the presence of blockers. Hence, studies of conductance mechanisms for BK channels should exclude intracellular Ca2+/Mg2+, as they can reduce conductance and induce negative slopes.
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