Distribution of Kv3.3 potassium channel subunits in distinct neuronal populations of mouse brain

J Comp Neurol. 2007 Jun 20;502(6):953-72. doi: 10.1002/cne.21353.


Kv3.3 proteins are pore-forming subunits of voltage-dependent potassium channels, and mutations in the gene encoding for Kv3.3 have recently been linked to human disease, spinocerebellar ataxia 13, with cerebellar and extracerebellar symptoms. To understand better the functions of Kv3.3 subunits in brain, we developed highly specific antibodies to Kv3.3 and analyzed immunoreactivity throughout mouse brain. We found that Kv3.3 subunits are widely expressed, present in important forebrain structures but particularly prominent in brainstem and cerebellum. In forebrain and midbrain, Kv3.3 expression was often found colocalized with parvalbumin and other Kv3 subunits in inhibitory neurons. In brainstem, Kv3.3 was strongly expressed in auditory and other sensory nuclei. In cerebellar cortex, Kv3.3 expression was found in Purkinje and granule cells. Kv3.3 proteins were observed in axons, terminals, somas, and, unlike other Kv3 proteins, also in distal dendrites, although precise subcellular localization depended on cell type. For example, hippocampal dentate granule cells expressed Kv3.3 subunits specifically in their mossy fiber axons, whereas Purkinje cells of the cerebellar cortex strongly expressed Kv3.3 subunits in axons, somas, and proximal and distal, but not second- and third-order, dendrites. Expression in Purkinje cell dendrites was confirmed by immunoelectron microscopy. Kv3 channels have been demonstrated to rapidly repolarize action potentials and support high-frequency firing in various neuronal populations. In this study, we identified additional populations and subcellular compartments that are likely to sustain high-frequency firing because of the expression of Kv3.3 and other Kv3 subunits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity / immunology
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Dendrites / metabolism
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred ICR
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Shaw Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Shaw Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Time Factors


  • Kcnc3 protein, mouse
  • Parvalbumins
  • Protein Subunits
  • Shaw Potassium Channels
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase