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Regulation of neuronal excitability by interaction of fragile X mental retardation protein with slack potassium channels.


Loss of the RNA-binding protein fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP) represents the most common form of inherited intellectual disability. Studies with heterologous expression systems indicate that FMRP interacts directly with Slack Na(+)-activated K(+) channels (K(Na)), producing an enhancement of channel activity. We have now used Aplysia bag cell (BC) neurons, which regulate reproductive behaviors, to examine the effects of Slack and FMRP on excitability. FMRP and Slack immunoreactivity were colocalized at the periphery of isolated BC neurons, and the two proteins could be reciprocally coimmunoprecipitated. Intracellular injection of FMRP lacking its mRNA binding domain rapidly induced a biphasic outward current, with an early transient tetrodotoxin-sensitive component followed by a slowly activating sustained component. The properties of this current matched that of the native Slack potassium current, which was identified using an siRNA approach. Addition of FMRP to inside-out patches containing native Aplysia Slack channels increased channel opening and, in current-clamp recordings, produced narrowing of action potentials. Suppression of Slack expression did not alter the ability of BC neurons to undergo a characteristic prolonged discharge in response to synaptic stimulation, but prevented recovery from a prolonged inhibitory period that normally follows the discharge. Recovery from the inhibited period was also inhibited by the protein synthesis inhibitor anisomycin. Our studies indicate that, in BC neurons, Slack channels are required for prolonged changes in neuronal excitability that require new protein synthesis, and raise the possibility that channel-FMRP interactions may link changes in neuronal firing to changes in protein translation.

Pubmed ID: 23115170


  • Zhang Y
  • Brown MR
  • Hyland C
  • Chen Y
  • Kronengold J
  • Fleming MR
  • Kohn AB
  • Moroz LL
  • Kaczmarek LK


The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience

Publication Data

October 31, 2012

Associated Grants

  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: HD067517
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: NS18492
  • Agency: NIGMS NIH HHS, Id: R01 GM097502
  • Agency: NICHD NIH HHS, Id: R01 HD067517
  • Agency: NIMH NIH HHS, Id: R01 MH097062
  • Agency: NINDS NIH HHS, Id: R01 NS018492

Mesh Terms

  • Animals
  • Anisomycin
  • Aplysia
  • CHO Cells
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Immunoprecipitation
  • Neurons
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Sodium
  • Synapses