Reconstitution of large conductance calcium-activated potassium (KCa) channels from native cell membranes into planar lipid bilayers provides a powerful method to study single channel properties, including ion conduction, pharmacology, and gating. Recently, KCa channels derived from the Drosophila Slowpoke (Slo) gene have been cloned and heterologously expressed in Xenopus oocytes. In this report, we describe the reconstitution of cloned and expressed Slo KCa channels from Xenopus oocyte membranes into lipid bilayers. The reconstituted channels demonstrate functional properties characteristic of native KCa channels. They possess a mean unitary conductance of approximately 260 pS in symmetrical potassium (250 mM), and they are voltage- and calcium-sensitive. At 50 microM Ca2+, their half-activation potential was near -20 mV; and their affinity for calcium is in the micromolar range. Reconstituted Slo KCa channels were insensitive to external charybdotoxin (40–500 nM) and sensitive to micromolar concentrations of external tetraethylammonium (KD = 158 microM, at 0 mV) and internal Ba2+ (KD = 76 microM, at 40 mV). In addition, they were blocked by internally applied "ball" inactivating peptide (KD = 480 microM, at 40 mV). These results demonstrate that cloned KCa channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes can be readily incorporated into lipid bilayers where detailed mechanistic studies can be performed under controlled internal and external experimental conditions.
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