Members of a previously unidentified family of potassium channel subunits were cloned from rat and human brain. The messenger RNAs encoding these subunits were widely expressed in brain with distinct yet overlapping patterns, as well as in several peripheral tissues. Expression of the messenger RNAs in Xenopus oocytes resulted in calcium-activated, voltage- independent potassium channels. The channels that formed from the various subunits displayed differential sensitivity to apamin and tubocurare. The distribution, function, and pharmacology of these channels are consistent with the SK class of small-conductance, calcium-activated potassium channels, which contribute to the afterhyperpolarization in central neurons and other cell types.
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