Activation of mitochondrial ATP-dependent potassium channels protects neurons against ischemia-induced death by a mechanism involving suppression of Bax translocation and cytochrome c release

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2002 Apr;22(4):431-43. doi: 10.1097/00004647-200204000-00007.


Neurons express a variety of plasma-membrane potassium channels that play important roles in regulating neuronal excitability and synaptic transmission, but also contain mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels, the functions of which are unknown. Studies of cardiac cells suggest that similar mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels are involved in the process of ischemic preconditioning, suggesting a role in regulating cell survival. The authors report that mice given diazoxide, an activator of mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels, exhibited a large (60% to 70%) decrease in cortical infarct size after permanent occlusion of the middle cerebral artery. Diazoxide decreases neuronal apoptosis and increases astrocyte survival and activation in the penumbral region of the ischemic cortex. The neuroprotective effect of diazoxide is abolished by 5-hydroxydecanoate, a selective antagonist of mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels. Studies of cultured hippocampal neurons reveal that diazoxide depolarizes mitochondria, prevents cytochrome c release, and protects cells against death induced by staurosporine and chemical hypoxia. Diazoxide increased the levels of Bcl2 and inhibited the association of Bax with mitochondria in neurons exposed to an apoptotic insult, suggesting that activation of mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels may stabilize mitochondrial function by differentially modulating proapoptotic and antiapoptotic proteins. Collectively, the data suggest that mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels play a key role in modulating neuronal survival under ischemic conditions, and identify agents that activate mitochondrial ATP-sensitive potassium channels as potential therapeutics for stroke and related neurodegenerative conditions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Cell Survival
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cyanides / pharmacology
  • Cytochrome c Group / metabolism*
  • Diazoxide / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2*
  • Regional Blood Flow / drug effects
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • BAX protein, human
  • Bax protein, mouse
  • Cyanides
  • Cytochrome c Group
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neuroprotective Agents
  • Potassium Channels
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • mitochondrial K(ATP) channel
  • Diazoxide