Background: KCNQx genes encode slowly activating-inactivating K+ channels, are linked to physiological signal transduction pathways, and mutations in them underlie diseases such as long QT syndrome (KCNQ1), epilepsy in adults (KCNQ2/3), benign familial neonatal convulsions in children (KCNQ3), and hearing loss or tinnitus in humans (KCNQ4, but not KCNQ5). Identification of kcnqx potassium channel transcripts in zebrafish (Danio rerio) remains to be fully characterized although some genes have been mapped to the genome. Using zebrafish genome resources as the source of putative kcnq sequences, we investigated the expression of kcnq1-5 in heart, brain and ear tissues.
Results: Overall expression of the kcnqx channel transcripts is similar to that found in mammals. We found that kcnq1 expression was highest in the heart, and also present in the ear and brain. kcnq2 was lowest in the heart, while kcnq3 was highly expressed in the brain, heart and ear. kcnq5 expression was highest in the ear. We analyzed zebrafish genomic clones containing putative kcnq4 sequences to identify transcripts and protein for this highly conserved member of the Kcnq channel family. The zebrafish appears to have two kcnq4 genes that produce distinct mRNA species in brain, ear, and heart tissues.
Conclusions: We conclude that the zebrafish is an attractive model for the study of the KCNQ (Kv7) superfamily of genes, and are important to processes involved in neuronal excitability, cardiac anomalies, epileptic seizures, and hearing loss or tinnitus.