Inhibition by cocaine of G protein-activated inwardly rectifying K+ channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes

Toxicol In Vitro. 2007 Jun;21(4):656-64. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2007.01.009. Epub 2007 Jan 20.


Cocaine, a commonly abused psychostimulant, interacts with not only transporters for dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine but also several receptors and channels. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the various effects of cocaine remain to be clarified. Using the Xenopus oocyte expression assay, we investigated the effects of cocaine on G protein-activated inwardly rectifying K+ (GIRK) channels, which regulate neuronal excitability and the heart rate. In oocytes injected with mRNAs for GIRK1/GIRK2, GIRK2 or GIRK1/GIRK4 subunits, cocaine reversibly reduced basal GIRK inward currents. The inhibition by cocaine at the toxic levels was concentration-dependent, but voltage-independent and time-independent during each voltage pulse. However, methylphenidate, methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) at their toxic concentrations had little effect on the channels. Additionally, Kir1.1 and Kir2.1 channels were insensitive to all of the drugs. The inhibition by cocaine, which exists mainly in a protonated form at pH 7.4, was not affected by extracellular pH 9, at which the proportion of the uncharged form increases, suggesting the inhibition by both forms with similar effectiveness, and at physiological pH the effect being predominantly due to the protonated cocaine. Our results suggest that inhibition of GIRK channels by cocaine may contribute to some of its toxic effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Chemistry / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / pharmacology
  • Cocaine / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Methamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Methylphenidate / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / pharmacology
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Potassium Channel Blockers*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Xenopus laevis


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • G Protein-Coupled Inwardly-Rectifying Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Methylphenidate
  • Methamphetamine
  • Cocaine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine