Michael Leitner: Co-assembly of KCNQ4 (Kv7.4) and Erg (Kv11) potassium channels as molecular basis of the characteristic outer hair cell current IK,n

The extraordinary acuity of mammalian hearing critically depends on active cochlear amplification through ultrafast somatic length changes of outer hair cells. Because these length changes are driven by membrane potential variations, sensitivity directly relies on ultrafast sound-induced receptor potentials. In outer hair cells, such potential changes are facilitated by the unique voltage-dependence of the potassium current IK,n that activates at extremely negative membrane potentials.
KCNQ4 (Kv7.4) K+ channel subunits have been identified as molecular components of IK,n. However, sole contribution of KCNQ4 does not explain the properties of the native current. Probably, yet unknown interaction partners of KCNQ4 produce IK,n in outer hair cells. We present a research project based on a targeted candidate approach to elucidate the molecular constituents of IK,n.

(A) KCNQ4 (Kv7.4) is a molecular component of the native current IK,n in outer hair cells (scale bar represents 5 µm). (B) The extraordinary properties of IK,n cannot be explained by sole contribution of KCNQ4 (left: representative electrophysiological recording of IK,n; right: summary of recordings for native IK,n and of KCNQ4 heterologously expressed in Chinese hamster ovary cells). The aim of our project is to elucidate the molecular components of IK,n that determine its biophysical properties.

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