Coexpression of auxiliary Kvβ2 subunits with Kv1.1 channels is required for developmental acquisition of unique firing properties of zebrafish Mauthner cells

J Neurophysiol. 2014 Mar;111(6):1153-64. doi: 10.1152/jn.00596.2013. Epub 2013 Dec 11.


Each neuron possesses a unique firing property, which is largely attributed to heterogeneity in the composition of voltage-gated ion channel complexes. Zebrafish Mauthner (M) cells, which are bilaterally paired giant reticulospinal neurons (RSNs) in the hindbrain and induce rapid escape behavior, generate only a single spike at the onset of depolarization. This single spiking is in contrast with the repetitive firing of the M cell's morphologically homologous RSNs, MiD2cm and MiD3cm, which are also involved in escapes. However, how the unique firing property of M cells is established and the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear. In the present study, we first demonstrated that the single-spiking property of M cells was acquired at 4 days postfertilization (dpf), accompanied by an increase in dendrotoxin I (DTX)-sensitive low-threshold K(+) currents, prior to which the M cell repetitively fires as its homologs. Second, in situ hybridization showed that among DTX-sensitive Kv1 channel α-subunits, zKv1.1a was unexpectedly expressed even in the homologs and the bursting M cells at 2 dpf. In contrast, zKvβ2b, an auxiliary β-subunit of Kv1 channels, was expressed only in the single-spiking M cells. Third, zKv1.1a expressed in Xenopus oocytes functioned as a low-threshold K(+) channel, and its currents were enhanced by coexpression of zKvβ2b subunits. Finally, knockdown of zKvβ2b expression in zebrafish larvae resulted in repetitive firing of M cells at 4 dpf. Taken together, these results suggest that associative expression of Kvβ2 subunits with Kv1.1 channels is crucial for developmental acquisition of the unique firing properties of the M cells among homologous neurons.

Keywords: Kv1.1; Kvβ2; Mauthner cell; potassium channel; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Elapid Venoms / pharmacology
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel / genetics
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Potassium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Subunits / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein Subunits / genetics
  • Protein Subunits / metabolism
  • Rhombencephalon / cytology
  • Rhombencephalon / growth & development
  • Rhombencephalon / physiology
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Zebrafish Proteins / genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism*


  • Elapid Venoms
  • Potassium Channel Blockers
  • Protein Subunits
  • Zebrafish Proteins
  • Kv1.1 Potassium Channel
  • dendrotoxin