Alcohol is a widely used and abused substance. A major unresolved issue in the alcohol research field is determining which of the many alcohol target proteins identified to date is responsible for shaping each specific alcohol-related behavior. The large-conductance, calcium- and voltage-activated potassium channel (BK channel) is a conserved target of ethanol. Genetic manipulation of the highly conserved BKα channel influences alcohol-related behaviors across phylogenetically diverse species that include worm, fly, mouse, and man. A pharmacological tool that prevents alcohol's action at a single target, like the BK channel, would complement genetic approaches in the quest to define the behavioral consequences of alcohol at each target. To identify agents that specifically modulate the action of ethanol at the BK channel, we executed a high-throughput phagemid-display screen in combination with a Caenorhabditis elegans behavioral genetics assay. This screen selected a novel nonapeptide, LS10, which moderated acute ethanol intoxication in a BK channel-humanized C. elegans strain without altering basal behavior. LS10's action in vivo was dependent upon BK channel functional activity. Single-channel electrophysiological recordings in vitro showed that preincubation with a submicromolar concentration of LS10 restricted ethanol-induced changes in human BKα channel gating. In contrast, no substantial changes in basal human BKα channel function were observed after LS10 application. The results obtained with the LS10 peptide provide proof-of-concept evidence that a combined phagemid-display/behavioral genetics screening approach can provide novel tools for understanding the action of alcohol at the BK channel and how this, in turn, exerts influence over central nervous system function.
Copyright © 2018 by The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.