Cholesterol is an essential lipid building block of the cellular plasma membrane. In addition to its structural role, it regulates the fluidity and raft structure of the membrane and influences the course of numerous membrane-linked signaling pathways and the function of transmembrane proteins, including ion channels. This is supported by a vast body of scientific data, which demonstrates the modulation of ion channels with a great variety of ion selectivity, gating, and tissue distribution by changes in membrane cholesterol. Here, we review what is currently known about the modulation of voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channels by changes in membrane cholesterol content, considering raft association of the channels, the roles of cholesterol recognition sites, and those of adaptor proteins in cholesterol-Kv channel interactions. We specifically focus on Kv1.3, the dominant K+ channel of human T cells. Effects of cholesterol depletion and enrichment and 7-dehydrocholesterol enrichment on Kv1.3 gating are discussed in the context of the immunological synapse and the comparison of the in vitro effects of sterol modifications on Kv1.3 function with ex vivo effects on cells from hypercholesterolemic and Smith-Lemli-Opitz patients.
Keywords: 7-Dehydrocholesterol; Cholesterol; Cholesterol recognition site; Cyclodextrin; Electrophysiology; Immunological synapse; Kv1.3; Lipid raft; T cell; Voltage-gated potassium channel.
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