Altered expression of two-pore domain potassium (K2P) channels in cancer

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 7;8(10):e74589. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0074589. eCollection 2013.


Potassium channels have become a focus in cancer biology as they play roles in cell behaviours associated with cancer progression, including proliferation, migration and apoptosis. Two-pore domain (K2P) potassium channels are background channels which enable the leak of potassium ions from cells. As these channels are open at rest they have a profound effect on cellular membrane potential and subsequently the electrical activity and behaviour of cells in which they are expressed. The K2P family of channels has 15 mammalian members and already 4 members of this family (K2P2.1, K2P3.1, K2P9.1, K2P5.1) have been implicated in cancer. Here we examine the expression of all 15 members of the K2P family of channels in a range of cancer types. This was achieved using the online cancer microarray database, Oncomine ( Each gene was examined across 20 cancer types, comparing mRNA expression in cancer to normal tissue. This analysis revealed all but 3 K2P family members (K2P4.1, K2P16.1, K2P18.1) show altered expression in cancer. Overexpression of K2P channels was observed in a range of cancers including breast, leukaemia and lung while more cancers (brain, colorectal, gastrointestinal, kidney, lung, melanoma, oesophageal) showed underexpression of one or more channels. K2P1.1, K2P3.1, K2P12.1, were overexpressed in a range of cancers. While K2P1.1, K2P3.1, K2P5.1, K2P6.1, K2P7.1 and K2P10.1 showed significant underexpression across the cancer types examined. This analysis supports the view that specific K2P channels may play a role in cancer biology. Their altered expression together with their ability to impact the function of other ion channels and their sensitivity to environmental stimuli (pO2, pH, glucose, stretch) makes understanding the role these channels play in cancer of key importance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain / genetics*
  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain / metabolism


  • Potassium Channels, Tandem Pore Domain
  • Potassium

Grant support

Work funded by the Gerald Kerkut Charitable Trust ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.