The Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channel KCa3.1 compartmentalizes in the immunological synapse of human T lymphocytes

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2007 Apr;292(4):C1431-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00376.2006. Epub 2006 Dec 6.


T cell receptor engagement results in the reorganization of intracellular and membrane proteins at the T cell-antigen presenting cell interface forming the immunological synapse (IS), an event required for Ca(2+) influx. KCa3.1 channels modulate Ca(2+) signaling in activated T cells by regulating the membrane potential. Nothing is known regarding KCa3.1 membrane distribution during T cell activation. Herein, we determined whether KCa3.1 translocates to the IS in human T cells using YFP-tagged KCa3.1 channels. These channels showed electrophysiological and pharmacological properties identical to wild-type channels. IS formation was induced by either anti-CD3/CD28 antibody-coated beads for fixed microscopy experiments or Epstein-Barr virus-infected B cells for fixed and live cell microscopy. In fixed microscopy experiments, T cells were also immunolabeled for F-actin or CD3epsilon, which served as IS formation markers. The distribution of KCa3.1 was determined with confocal and fluorescence microscopy. We found that, upon T cell activation, KCa3.1 channels localize with F-actin and CD3epsilon to the IS but remain evenly distributed on the cell membrane when no stimulus is provided. Detailed imaging experiments indicated that KCa3.1 channels are recruited in the IS shortly after antigen presentation and are maintained there for at least 15-30 min. Interestingly, pretreatment of activated T cells with the specific KCa3.1 blocker TRAM-34 blocked Ca(2+) influx, but channel redistribution to the IS was not prevented. These results indicate that KCa3.1 channels are a part of the signaling complex that forms at the IS upon antigen presentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Antigen Presentation*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Cell Compartmentation*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intermediate-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Intermediate-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Intermediate-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Protein Transport
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*


  • Actins
  • Intermediate-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • KCNN4 protein, human
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Calcium