Activated microglia/macrophages significantly contribute to the secondary inflammatory damage in ischemic stroke. Cultured neonatal microglia express the K+ channels Kv1.3 and KCa3.1, both of which have been reported to be involved in microglia-mediated neuronal killing, oxidative burst and cytokine production. However, it is questionable whether neonatal cultures accurately reflect the K+ channel expression of activated microglia in the adult brain. We here subjected mice to middle cerebral artery occlusion with eight days of reperfusion and patch-clamped acutely isolated microglia/macrophages. Microglia from the infarcted area exhibited higher densities of K+ currents with the biophysical and pharmacological properties of Kv1.3, KCa3.1 and Kir2.1 than microglia from non-infarcted control brains. Similarly, immunohistochemistry on human infarcts showed strong Kv1.3 and KCa3.1 immunoreactivity on activated microglia/macrophages. We next investigated the effect of genetic deletion and pharmacological blockade of KCa3.1 in reversible middle cerebral artery occlusion. KCa3.1-/- mice and wild-type mice treated with the KCa3.1 blocker TRAM-34 exhibited significantly smaller infarct areas on day-8 after middle cerebral artery occlusion and improved neurological deficit. Both manipulations reduced microglia/macrophage activation and brain cytokine levels. Our findings suggest KCa3.1 as a pharmacological target for ischemic stroke. Of potential, clinical relevance is that KCa3.1 blockade is still effective when initiated 12 h after the insult.
Keywords: KCa3.1; TRAM-34; microglia activation; middle cerebral artery occlusion; potassium channel.
© The Author(s) 2015.