K+ currents in human coronary artery vascular smooth muscle cells


  • M. Gollasch
  • C. Ried
  • R. Bychkov
  • F.C. Luft
  • H. Haller


  • Circulation Research


  • Circ Res 78 (4): 676-688


  • K+ channels and their currents are important in vascular tone regulation and are potential therapeutic targets; however, K+ channels in human coronary artery vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) have received little attention. We examined K+ currents in freshly isolated VSMCs from human coronary arteries (n=368 from 32 human hearts) with conventional patch-clamp or perforated-patch techniques with nystatin. We detected four different K+ currents: (1) the delayed rectifier K+ current, IK(dr); (2) the Ca2+-activated K+ current, IK(Ca); (3) the nonrectifying noninactivating outward ATP-dependent K+ current, IK(ATP); and (4) the spontaneous transient outward K+ current, IK(STOC). K+ channels underlying spontaneous transient outward currents probably represent a single clustered population of Ca2+-activated K+ channels functionally associated with Ca2+ release channels in the sarcoplasmic reticulum. Inwardly rectifying K+ currents were not observed. K+ currents were unevenly distributed in that they were not uniformly exhibited by all cells. The most prominent K+ currents were IK(Ca) (100%) and IK(dr) (46%). IK(STOC)s, which have not been previously described in humans, were present in 67% of VSMCs. IK(ATP) was small under physiological conditions; however, IK(ATP) increased markedly after cell stimulation with exogenous or endogenous coronary vasodilators. Thus, IK(ATP) may be particularly relevant in ischemia and could be of special importance as a therapeutic target. We conclude that human coronary VSMCs have unique K+ currents that differ sufficiently from those of other species, thus making the investigation of human material clinically relevant. The findings suggest potential avenues for further therapeutic research.