GIRK2 splice variants and neuronal G protein-gated K+ channels: implications for channel function and behavior.
ABSTRACT: Many neurotransmitters directly inhibit neurons by activating G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K+ (GIRK) channels, thereby moderating the influence of excitatory input on neuronal excitability. While most neuronal GIRK channels are formed by GIRK1 and GIRK2 subunits, distinct GIRK2 isoforms generated by alternative splicing have been identified. Here, we compared the trafficking and function of two isoforms (GIRK2a and GIRK2c) expressed individually in hippocampal pyramidal neurons lacking GIRK2. GIRK2a and GIRK2c supported comparable somato-dendritic GIRK currents in Girk2 -/- pyramidal neurons, although GIRK2c achieved a more uniform subcellular distribution in pyramidal neurons and supported inhibitory postsynaptic currents in distal dendrites better than GIRK2a. While over-expression of either isoform in dorsal CA1 pyramidal neurons restored contextual fear learning in a conditional Girk2 -/- mouse line, GIRK2a also enhanced cue fear learning. Collectively, these data indicate that GIRK2 isoform balance within a neuron can impact the processing of afferent inhibitory input and associated behavior.
Project description:Cognitive dysfunction occurs in many debilitating conditions including Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome, schizophrenia, and mood disorders. The dorsal hippocampus is a critical locus of cognitive processes linked to spatial and contextual learning. G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium ion (GIRK/Kir3) channels, which mediate the postsynaptic inhibitory effect of many neurotransmitters, have been implicated in hippocampal-dependent cognition. Available evidence, however, derives primarily from constitutive gain-of-function models that lack cellular specificity.We used constitutive and neuron-specific gene ablation models targeting an integral subunit of neuronal GIRK channels (GIRK2) to probe the impact of GIRK channels on associative learning and memory.Constitutive Girk2-/- mice exhibited a striking deficit in hippocampal-dependent (contextual) and hippocampal-independent (cue) fear conditioning. Mice lacking GIRK2 in gamma-aminobutyric acid neurons (GAD-Cre:Girk2flox/flox mice) exhibited a clear deficit in GIRK-dependent signaling in dorsal hippocampal gamma-aminobutyric acid neurons but no evident behavioral phenotype. Mice lacking GIRK2 in forebrain pyramidal neurons (CaMKII-Cre(+):Girk2flox/flox mice) exhibited diminished GIRK-dependent signaling in dorsal, but not ventral, hippocampal pyramidal neurons. CaMKII-Cre(+):Girk2flox/flox mice also displayed a selective impairment in contextual fear conditioning, as both cue fear and spatial learning were intact in these mice. Finally, loss of GIRK2 in forebrain pyramidal neurons correlated with enhanced long-term depression and blunted depotentiation of long-term potentiation at the Schaffer collateral/cornu ammonis 1 synapse in the dorsal hippocampus.Our data suggest that GIRK channels in dorsal hippocampal pyramidal neurons are necessary for normal learning involving aversive stimuli and support the contention that dysregulation of GIRK-dependent signaling may underlie cognitive dysfunction in some disorders.
Project description:Ts65Dn, a mouse model of Down syndrome (DS), demonstrates abnormal hippocampal synaptic plasticity and behavioral abnormalities related to spatial learning and memory. The molecular mechanisms leading to these impairments have not been identified. In this study, we focused on the G-protein-activated inwardly rectifying potassium channel 2 (GIRK2) gene that is highly expressed in the hippocampus region. We studied the expression pattern of GIRK subunits in Ts65Dn and found that GIRK2 was overexpressed in all analyzed Ts65Dn brain regions. Interestingly, elevated levels of GIRK2 protein in the Ts65Dn hippocampus and frontal cortex correlated with elevated levels of GIRK1 protein. This suggests that heteromeric GIRK1-GIRK2 channels are overexpressed in Ts65Dn hippocampus and frontal cortex, which could impair excitatory input and modulate spike frequency and synaptic kinetics in the affected regions. All GIRK2 splicing isoforms examined were expressed at higher levels in the Ts65Dn in comparison to the diploid hippocampus. The pattern of GIRK2 expression in the Ts65Dn mouse brain revealed by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry was similar to that previously reported in the rodent brain. However, in the Ts65Dn mouse a strong immunofluorescent staining of GIRK2 was detected in the lacunosum molecular layer of the CA3 area of the hippocampus. In addition, tyrosine hydroxylase containing dopaminergic neurons that coexpress GIRK2 were more numerous in the substantia nigra compacta and ventral tegmental area in the Ts65Dn compared to diploid controls. In summary, the regional localization and the increased brain levels coupled with known function of the GIRK channel may suggest an important contribution of GIRK2 containing channels to Ts65Dn and thus to DS neurophysiological phenotypes.
Project description:GABAergic dysfunction is implicated in hippocampal deficits of the Ts65Dn mouse model of Down syndrome (DS). Since Ts65Dn mice overexpress G-protein coupled inward-rectifying potassium (GIRK2) containing channels, we sought to evaluate whether increased GABAergic function disrupts the functioning of hippocampal circuitry. After confirming that GABA(B)/GIRK current density is significantly elevated in Ts65Dn CA1 pyramidal neurons, we compared monosynaptic inhibitory inputs in CA1 pyramidal neurons in response to proximal (stratum radiatum; SR) and distal (stratum lacunosum moleculare; SLM) stimulation of diploid and Ts65Dn acute hippocampal slices. Synaptic GABA(B) and GABA(A) mediated currents evoked by SR stimulation were generally unaffected in Ts65Dn CA1 neurons. However, the GABA(B)/GABA(A) ratios evoked by stimulation within the SLM of Ts65Dn hippocampus were significantly larger in magnitude, consistent with increased GABA(B)/GIRK currents after SLM stimulation. These results indicate that GIRK overexpression in Ts65Dn has functional consequences which affect the balance between GABA(B) and GABA(A) inhibition of CA1 pyramidal neurons, most likely in a pathway specific manner, and may contribute to cognitive deficits reported in these mice.
Project description:GIRK channels control spike frequency in atrial pacemaker cells and inhibitory potentials in neurons. By directly responding to G proteins, PIP2 and Na(+), GIRK is under the control of multiple signaling pathways. In this study, the mammalian GIRK2 channel has been purified and reconstituted in planar lipid membranes and effects of G?, G??, PIP2 and Na(+) analyzed. G?? and PIP2 must be present simultaneously to activate GIRK2. Na(+) is not essential but modulates the effect of G?? and PIP2 over physiological concentrations. G?i1(GTP?S) has no effect, whereas G?i1(GDP) closes the channel through removal of G??. In the presence of G??, GIRK2 opens as a function of PIP2 mole fraction with Hill coefficient 2.5 and an affinity that poises GIRK2 to respond to natural variations of PIP2 concentration. The dual requirement for G?? and PIP2 can help to explain why GIRK2 is activated by Gi/o, but not Gq coupled GPCRs.
Project description:G protein gated inward rectifier K(+) (GIRK) channels open and thereby silence cellular electrical activity when inhibitory G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) are stimulated. Here we describe an assay to measure neuronal GIRK2 activity as a function of membrane-anchored G protein concentration. Using this assay we show that four Gβγ subunits bind cooperatively to open GIRK2, and that intracellular Na(+) - which enters neurons during action potentials - further amplifies opening mostly by increasing Gβγ affinity. A Na(+) amplification function is characterized and used to estimate the concentration of Gβγ subunits that appear in the membrane of mouse dopamine neurons when GABAB receptors are stimulated. We conclude that GIRK2, through its dual responsiveness to Gβγ and Na(+), mediates a form of neuronal inhibition that is amplifiable in the setting of excess electrical activity.
Project description:G-protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels, which help control neuronal excitability, are important for the response to drugs of abuse. Here, we describe a novel pathway for morphine-dependent enhancement of GIRK channel signaling in hippocampal neurons. Morphine treatment for ?20 h increased the colocalization of GIRK2 with PSD95, a dendritic spine marker. Western blot analysis and quantitative immunoelectron microscopy revealed an increase in GIRK2 protein and targeting to dendritic spines. In vivo administration of morphine also produced an upregulation of GIRK2 protein in the hippocampus. The mechanism engaged by morphine required elevated intracellular Ca(2+) and was insensitive to pertussis toxin, implicating opioid receptors that may couple to Gq G-proteins. Met-enkephalin, but not the ?-selective (DAMGO) and ?-selective (DPDPE) opioid receptor agonists, mimicked the effect of morphine, suggesting involvement of a heterodimeric opioid receptor complex. Peptide (KN-93) inhibition of CaMKII prevented the morphine-dependent change in GIRK localization, whereas expression of a constitutively activated form of CaMKII mimicked the effects of morphine. Coincident with an increase in GIRK2 surface expression, functional analyses revealed that morphine treatment increased the size of serotonin-activated GIRK currents and Ba(2+)-sensitive basal K(+) currents in neurons. These results demonstrate plasticity in neuronal GIRK signaling that may contribute to the abusive effects of morphine.
Project description:Hypercholesterolemia is a well known risk factor for the development of neurodegenerative disease. However, the underlying mechanisms are mostly unknown. In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that cholesterol-driven effects on physiology and pathophysiology derive from its ability to alter the function of a variety of membrane proteins including ion channels. Yet, the effect of cholesterol on G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels expressed in the brain is unknown. GIRK channels mediate the actions of inhibitory brain neurotransmitters. As a result, loss of GIRK function can enhance neuron excitability, whereas gain of GIRK function can reduce neuronal activity. Here we show that in rats on a high-cholesterol diet, cholesterol levels in hippocampal neurons are increased. We also demonstrate that cholesterol plays a critical role in modulating neuronal GIRK currents. Specifically, cholesterol enrichment of rat hippocampal neurons resulted in enhanced channel activity. In accordance, elevated currents upon cholesterol enrichment were also observed in Xenopus oocytes expressing GIRK2 channels, the primary GIRK subunit expressed in the brain. Furthermore, using planar lipid bilayers, we show that although cholesterol did not affect the unitary conductance of GIRK2, it significantly enhanced the frequency of channel openings. Last, combining computational and functional approaches, we identified two putative cholesterol-binding sites in the transmembrane domain of GIRK2. These findings establish that cholesterol plays a critical role in modulating GIRK activity in the brain. Because up-regulation of GIRK function can reduce neuronal activity, our findings may lead to novel approaches for prevention and therapy of cholesterol-driven neurodegenerative disease.
Project description:The use of opioid agonists acting outside the central nervous system (CNS) is a promising therapeutic strategy for pain control that avoids deleterious central side effects such as apnea and addiction. In human clinical trials and rat models of inflammatory pain, peripherally restricted opioids have repeatedly shown powerful analgesic effects; in some mouse models however, their actions remain unclear. Here, we investigated opioid receptor coupling to K(+) channels as a mechanism to explain such discrepancies. We found that GIRK channels, major effectors for opioid signalling in the CNS, are absent from mouse peripheral sensory neurons but present in human and rat. In vivo transgenic expression of GIRK channels in mouse nociceptors established peripheral opioid signalling and local analgesia. We further identified a regulatory element in the rat GIRK2 gene that accounts for differential expression in rodents. Thus, GIRK channels are indispensable for peripheral opioid analgesia, and their absence in mice has profound consequences for GPCR signalling in peripheral sensory neurons.
Project description:While the acute inhibitory effect of opioids on locus coeruleus (LC) neurons is mediated primarily by the activation of G protein-gated inwardly-rectifying K(+) (GIRK) channels, the 3'-5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) system has been implicated in the effects of chronic morphine exposure. Presently, the impact of chronic morphine treatment on GIRK-dependent and GIRK-independent mechanisms underlying the opioid-induced inhibition of LC neurons is unclear. Here, opioid-induced postsynaptic inhibition was studied in LC neurons from wild-type and GIRK2/GIRK3(-/-) mice at baseline and following chronic morphine treatment. The postsynaptic inhibition of LC neurons caused by the opioid agonist [Met](5) enkephalin (ME) was unaffected by chronic morphine treatment in mice of either genotype. Furthermore, chronic morphine treatment had no effect on the forskolin augmentation of the ME-induced current in wild-type LC neurons and only a minor effect on the ME-induced current in LC neurons from GIRK2/GIRK3(-/-) mice. Chronic morphine treatment did, however, lead to an increased frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) in the LC. Interestingly, while forskolin augmented the EPSC frequency similarly in untreated and morphine-treated wild-type mice, as well as untreated GIRK2/GIRK3(-/-) mice, it failed to increase the frequency of EPSCs in morphine-treated GIRK2/GIRK3(-/-) mice. Altogether, the findings suggest that chronic morphine treatment exerts little impact on ion channels and signaling pathways that mediate the postsynaptic inhibitory effects of opioids but does enhance excitatory neurotransmission in the mouse LC.
Project description:G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K<sup>+</sup> (GIRK) channels belong to the inward-rectifier K<sup>+</sup> (Kir) family, are abundantly expressed in the heart and the brain, and require that phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate is present so that intracellular channel-gating regulators such as G?? and Na<sup>+</sup> ions can maintain the channel-open state. However, despite high-resolution structures (GIRK2) and a large number of functional studies, we do not have a coherent picture of how G?? and Na<sup>+</sup> ions control gating of GIRK2 channels. Here, we utilized computational modeling and all-atom microsecond-scale molecular dynamics simulations to determine which gates are controlled by Na<sup>+</sup> and G?? and how each regulator uses the channel domain movements to control gate transitions. We found that Na<sup>+</sup> ions control the cytosolic gate of the channel through an anti-clockwise rotation, whereas G?? stabilizes the transmembrane gate in the open state through a rocking movement of the cytosolic domain. Both effects alter the way in which the channel interacts with phosphatidylinositol bisphosphate and thereby stabilizes the open states of the respective gates. These studies of GIRK channel dynamics present for the first time a comprehensive structural model that is consistent with the great body of literature on GIRK channel function.