Voltage sensitivity of M2 muscarinic receptors underlies the delayed rectifier-like activation of ACh-gated K(+) current by choline in feline atrial myocytes

J Physiol. 2013 Sep 1;591(17):4273-86. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.255166. Epub 2013 May 7.


Choline (Ch) is a precursor and metabolite of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh). In canine and guinea pig atrial myocytes, Ch was shown to activate an outward K(+) current in a delayed rectifier fashion. This current has been suggested to modulate cardiac electrical activity and to play a role in atrial fibrillation pathophysiology. However, the exact nature and identity of this current has not been convincingly established. We recently described the unique ligand- and voltage-dependent properties of muscarinic activation of ACh-activated K(+) current (IKACh) and showed that, in contrast to ACh, pilocarpine induces a current with delayed rectifier-like properties with membrane depolarization. Here, we tested the hypothesis that Ch activates IKACh in feline atrial myocytes in a voltage-dependent manner similar to pilocarpine. Single-channel recordings, biophysical profiles, specific pharmacological inhibition and computational data indicate that the current activated by Ch is IKACh. Moreover, we show that membrane depolarization increases the potency and efficacy of IKACh activation by Ch and thus gives the appearance of a delayed rectifier activating K(+) current at depolarized potentials. Our findings support the emerging concept that IKACh modulation is both voltage- and ligand-specific and reinforce the importance of these properties in understanding cardiac physiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Choline / pharmacology
  • Delayed Rectifier Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Heart Atria / cytology
  • Heart Atria / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / drug effects
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / metabolism*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / physiology
  • Pilocarpine / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2 / metabolism*


  • Delayed Rectifier Potassium Channels
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M2
  • Pilocarpine
  • Choline