K+ modulation of microglial superoxide production: involvement of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels

Am J Physiol. 1994 Jun;266(6 Pt 1):C1650-5. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1994.266.6.C1650.


A variety of cytoactive factors produced during injury and inflammation are known to activate the central nervous system (CNS) macrophage, the microglia. Since extracellular potassium levels are known to rise rapidly at sites of injury in the CNS, we examined the possibility that changes in extracellular potassium could mediate changes in microglial function. The effect of an increase in potassium concentration on microglial superoxide anion production was studied in cultured neonatal rat microglia. Rather than directly inducing superoxide anion production, exposure to media containing 25 and 55 mM potassium enhanced the production of superoxide induced by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate. This potentiation was blocked by nifedipine, a voltage-gated calcium channel blocker. Treatment of the microglia with BAY K 8644, an agonist for voltage-gated calcium channels, produced an enhancement of superoxide levels similar to that of potassium. Because these data indicated the presence of a voltage-gated calcium channel, we also examined whole cell current in cultured microglia. A small, voltage-dependent inward calcium current was seen that was increased by exposure of the microglia to BAY K 8644. The presence of a small but finite calcium influx via these channels may be an important factor in the regulation of intracellular microglial events such as activation of the NADPH oxidase and the consequent production of superoxide anion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anions / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Ion Channel Gating*
  • Microglia / metabolism*
  • Nifedipine / pharmacology
  • Potassium / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • Anions
  • Calcium Channels
  • Superoxides
  • 3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester
  • Nifedipine
  • Potassium