Rapid Characterization of the Functional and Pharmacological Consequences of Cantú Syndrome KATP Channel Mutations in Intact Cells

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2023 Sep;386(3):298-309. doi: 10.1124/jpet.123.001659. Epub 2023 Aug 1.


Gain-of-function of KATP channels, resulting from mutations in either KCNJ8 (encoding inward rectifier sub-family 6 [Kir6.1]) or ABCC9 (encoding sulphonylurea receptor [SUR2]), cause Cantú syndrome (CS), a channelopathy characterized by excess hair growth, coarse facial appearance, cardiomegaly, and lymphedema. Here, we established a pipeline for rapid analysis of CS mutation consequences in Landing pad HEK 293 cell lines stably expressing wild type (WT) and mutant human Kir6.1 and SUR2B. Thallium-influx and cell membrane potential, reported by fluorescent Tl-sensitive Fluozin-2 and voltage-sensitive bis-(1,3-dibutylbarbituric acid)trimethine oxonol (DiBAC4(3)) dyes, respectively, were used to assess channel activity. In the Tl-influx assay, CS-associated Kir6.1 mutations increased sensitivity to the ATP-sensitive potassium (KATP) channel activator, pinacidil, but there was strikingly little effect of pinacidil for any SUR2B mutations, reflecting unexpected differences in the molecular mechanisms of Kir6.1 versus SUR2B mutations. Compared with the Tl-influx assay, the DiBAC4(3) assay presents more significant signal changes in response to subtle KATP channel activity changes, and all CS mutants (both Kir6.1 and SUR2B), but not WT channels, caused marked hyperpolarization, demonstrating that all mutants were activated under ambient conditions in intact cells. Most SUR2 CS mutations were markedly inhibited by <100 nM glibenclamide, but sensitivity to inhibition by glibenclamide, repaglinide, and PNU37883A was markedly reduced for Kir6.1 CS mutations. Understanding functional consequences of mutations can help with disease diagnosis and treatment. The analysis pipeline we have developed has the potential to rapidly identify mutational consequences, aiding future CS diagnosis, drug discovery, and individualization of treatment. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We have developed new fluorescence-based assays of channel activities and drug sensitivities of Cantú syndrome (CS) mutations in human Kir6.1/SUR2B-dependent KATP channels, showing that Kir6.1 mutations increase sensitivity to potassium channel openers, while SUR2B mutations markedly reduce K channel opener (KCO) sensitivity. However, both Kir6.1 and SUR2B CS mutations are both more hyperpolarized than WT cells under basal conditions, confirming pathophysiologically relevant gain-of-function, validating DiBAC4(3) fluorescence to characterize hyperpolarization induced by KATP channel activity under basal, non KCO-activated conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Cardiomegaly / genetics
  • Glyburide* / metabolism
  • Glyburide* / pharmacology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • KATP Channels* / genetics
  • KATP Channels* / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • Pinacidil / pharmacology
  • Sulfonylurea Receptors / genetics
  • Sulfonylurea Receptors / metabolism


  • Glyburide
  • Pinacidil
  • KATP Channels
  • Sulfonylurea Receptors
  • Adenosine Triphosphate

Supplementary concepts

  • Cantu syndrome