Cloning and functional expression of two families of Beta-subunits of the large conductance calcium-activated potassium channel.
We report here a characterization of two families of calcium-activated K(+) channel beta-subunits, beta2 and beta3, which are encoded by distinct genes that map to 3q26.2-27. A single beta2 family member and four alternatively spliced variants of beta3 were investigated. These subunits have predicted molecular masses of 27. 1-31.6 kDa, share approximately 30-44% amino acid identity with beta1, and exhibit distinct but overlapping expression patterns. Coexpression of the beta2 or beta3a-c subunits with a BK alpha-subunit altered the functional properties of the current expressed by the alpha-subunit alone. The beta2 subunit rapidly and completely inactivated the current and shifted the voltage dependence for activation to more polarized membrane potentials. In contrast, coexpression of the beta3a-c subunits resulted in only partial inactivation of the current, and the beta3b subunit conferred an apparent inward rectification. Furthermore, unlike the beta1 and beta2 subunits, none of the beta3 subunits increased channel sensitivity to calcium or voltage. The tissue-specific expression of these beta-subunits may allow for the assembly of a large number of distinct BK channels in vivo, contributing to the functional diversity of native BK currents.