Molecular mechanisms of diabetic coronary dysfunction due to large conductance Ca2⁺-activated K⁺ channel impairment

Chin Med J (Engl). 2012 Jul;125(14):2548-55.


Background: Diabetes mellitus is associated with coronary dysfunction, contributing to a 2- to 4-fold increase in the risk of coronary heart diseases. The mechanisms by which diabetes induces vasculopathy involve endothelial-dependent and -independent vascular dysfunction in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The purpose of this study is to determine the role of vascular large conductance Ca(2+)-activated K(+) (BK) channel activities in coronary dysfunction in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.

Methods: Using videomicroscopy, immunoblotting, fluorescent assay and patch clamp techniques, we investigated the coronary BK channel activities and BK channel-mediated coronary vasoreactivity in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.

Results: BK currents (defined as the iberiotoxin-sensitive K(+) component) contribute (65 ± 4)% of the total K(+) currents in freshly isolated coronary smooth muscle cells and > 50% of the contraction of the inner diameter of coronary arteries from normal rats. However, BK current density is remarkably reduced in coronary smooth muscle cells of streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats, leading to an increase in coronary artery tension. BK channel activity in response to free Ca(2+) is impaired in diabetic rats. Moreover, cytoplasmic application of DHS-1 (a specific BK channel b(1) subunit activator) robustly enhanced the open probability of BK channels in coronary smooth muscle cells of normal rats. In diabetic rats, the DHS-1 effect was diminished in the presence of 200 nmol/L Ca(2+) and was significantly attenuated in the presence of high free calcium concentration, i.e., 1 mmol/L Ca(2+). Immunoblotting experiments confirmed that there was a 2-fold decrease in BK-b(1) protein expression in diabetic vessels, without altering the BK channel α-subunit expression. Although the cytosolic Ca(2+) concentration of coronary arterial smooth muscle cells was increased from (103 ± 23) nmol/L (n = 5) of control rats to (193 ± 22) nmol/L (n = 6, P < 0.05) of STZ-induced diabetic rats, reduced BK-b(1) expression made these channels less sensitive to intracellular Ca(2+), which in turn led to enhanced smooth muscle contraction.

Conclusions: Our results indicated that BK channels are the key determinant of coronary arterial tone. Impaired BK channel function in diabetes mellitus is associated with down-regulation of BK-b(1) expression and reduction of the b(1)-mediated BK channel activation in diabetic vessels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Experimental / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / physiopathology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels