Phosphorylation of a constitutive serine inhibits BK channel variants containing the alternate exon "SRKR"

J Gen Physiol. 2013 Dec;142(6):585-98. doi: 10.1085/jgp.201311072.


BK Ca(2+)-activated K(+) currents exhibit diverse properties across tissues. The functional variation in voltage- and Ca(2+)-dependent gating underlying this diversity arises from multiple mechanisms, including alternate splicing of Kcnma1, the gene encoding the pore-forming (α) subunit of the BK channel, phosphorylation of α subunits, and inclusion of β subunits in channel complexes. To address the interplay of these mechanisms in the regulation of BK currents, two native splice variants, BK0 and BKSRKR, were cloned from a tissue that exhibits dynamic daily expression of BK channel, the central circadian pacemaker in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of mouse hypothalamus. The BK0 and BKSRKR variants differed by the inclusion of a four-amino acid alternate exon at splice site 1 (SRKR), which showed increased expression during the day. The functional properties of the variants were investigated in HEK293 cells using standard voltage-clamp protocols. Compared with BK0, BKSRKR currents had a significantly right-shifted conductance-voltage (G-V) relationship across a range of Ca(2+) concentrations, slower activation, and faster deactivation. These effects were dependent on the phosphorylation state of S642, a serine residue within the constitutive exon immediately preceding the SRKR insert. Coexpression of the neuronal β4 subunit slowed gating kinetics and shifted the G-V relationship in a Ca(2+)-dependent manner, enhancing the functional differences between the variants. Next, using native action potential (AP) command waveforms recorded from SCN to elicit BK currents, we found that these splice variant differences persist under dynamic activation conditions in physiological ionic concentrations. AP-induced currents from BKSRKR channels were significantly reduced compared with BK0, an effect that was maintained with coexpression of the β4 subunit but abolished by the mutation of S642. These results demonstrate a novel mechanism for reducing BK current activation under reconstituted physiological conditions, and further suggest that S642 is selectively phosphorylated in the presence of SRKR.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Alternative Splicing
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Exons*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channel alpha Subunits / genetics
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channel alpha Subunits / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • Serine / genetics
  • Serine / metabolism*
  • Suprachiasmatic Nucleus / cytology


  • Kcnma1 protein, mouse
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channel alpha Subunits
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Serine
  • Calcium