Small-conductance calcium-activated potassium (SK3) channels have been detected in human myometrium and we have previously shown a functional role of SK channels in human myometrium in vitro. The aims of this study were to identify the precise localization of SK3 channels and to quantify SK3 mRNA expression in myometrium from pregnant and non-pregnant women. Myometrial biopsies were obtained from pregnant (n = 11) and non-pregnant (n = 11) women. The expression of SK3 channels was assessed using immunohistochemistry and SK3 mRNA was determined by qRT-PCR. In non-pregnant myometrium SK3 immunoreactivity was observed in CD34 positive (CD34(+)) interstitial Cajal-like cells (ICLC), now called telocytes. Although CD34(+) cells were also present in pregnant myometrium, they lacked SK3 immunoreactivity. Furthermore, the immunohistochemical results showed that SK3 expression in vascular endothelium was similar between the two groups. CD117 immunoreactivity was only detected in small round cells that resemble mast cells. Compared to non-pregnant myometrium we found significantly less SK3 mRNA in pregnant myometrium. We demonstrate that SK3 channels are localized solely in CD34(+) cells and not in smooth muscle cells, and that the molecular expression of SK3 channels is higher in non-pregnant compared to pregnant myometrium. On the basis of our previous study and the present findings, we propose that SK3 activators reduce contractility in human myometrium by modulating telocyte function. This is the first report to provide evidence for a possible role of SK3 channels in human uterine telocytes.
© 2012 The Authors Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine © 2012 Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.