Inward rectifier potassium conductance regulates membrane potential of canine colonic smooth muscle


Corresponding author K. M. Sanders: Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, University of Nevada School of Medicine, Reno, NV 89557, USA. Email:


  • 1The membrane potential of gastrointestinal smooth muscles determines the open probability of ion channels involved in rhythmic electrical activity. The role of Ba2+-sensitive K+ conductances in the maintenance of membrane potential was examined in canine proximal colon circular muscle.
  • 2Application of Ba2+ (1-100 μM) to strips of tunica muscularis produced depolarization of cells along the submucosal surface of the circular muscle layer. Significantly higher concentrations of Ba2+ were needed to depolarize preparations from which the submucosal and myenteric pacemaker regions were removed.
  • 3Elevation of extracellular [K+]o (from 5·9 to 12 mM) brought membrane potentials closer to EK (the Nernst potential for K+ ions), suggesting activation of a K+ conductance. This occurred at potentials much more negative than the activation range for delayed rectifier channels (Kv).
  • 4Forskolin (1 μM) caused hyperpolarization and a leftward shift in the dose-response relationship for Ba2+, suggesting that forskolin may activate a Ba2+-sensitive conductance.
  • 5Patch-clamp recordings from interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) revealed the presence of a Ba2+-sensitive inward rectifier potassium conductance. Far less of this conductance was present in smooth muscle cells.
  • 6Kir2.1 was expressed in the circular muscle layer of the canine proximal colon, duodenum, jejunum and ileum. Kir2.1 mRNA was expressed in greater abundance along the submucosal surface of the circular muscle layer in the colon.
  • 7These results demonstrate that ICC express a Ba2+-sensitive conductance (possibly encoded by Kir2.1). This conductance contributes to the generation and maintenance of negative membrane potentials between slow waves.