Background: Recently, a new structural family of potassium channels characterized by two pore domains in tandem within their primary amino acid sequence was identified. These tandem pore domain potassium channels are not gated by voltage and appear to be involved in the control of baseline membrane conductances. The goal of this study was to identify mechanisms of local anesthetic action on these channels.
Methods: Oocytes of Xenopus laevis were injected with cRNA from five cloned tandem pore domain baseline potassium channels (TASK, TREK-1, TOK1, ORK1, and TWIK-1), and the effects of several local anesthetics on the heterologously expressed channels were assayed using two-electrode voltage-clamp and current-clamp techniques.
Results: Bupivacaine (1 mM) inhibited all studied tandem pore potassium channels, with TASK inhibited most potently. The potency of inhibition was directly correlated with the octanol: buffer distribution coefficient of the local anesthetic, with the exception of tetracaine, to which TASK is relatively insensitive. The approximate 50% inhibitory concentrations of TASK were 709 microM mepivacaine, 222 microM lidocaine, 51 microM R(+)-ropivacaine, 53 microM S(-)-ropivacaine, 668 microM tetracaine, 41 microM bupivacaine, and 39 microM etidocaine. Local anesthetics (1 mM) significantly depolarized the resting membrane potential of TASK cRNA-injected oocytes compared with saline-injected control oocytes (tetracaine 22+/-6 mV rs. 7+/-1 mV, respectively, and bupivacaine 31+/-7 mV vs. 6+/-4 mV).
Conclusions: Local anesthetics inhibit tandem pore domain baseline potassium channels, and they could depolarize the resting membrane potential of cells expressing these channels. Whether inhibition of these channels contributes to conduction blockade or to the adverse effects of local anesthetics remains to be determined.