Direct observation of individual KCNQ1 potassium channels reveals their distinctive diffusive behavior

Gregory I Mashanov, Muriel Nobles, Stephen C Harmer, Justin E Molloy, Andrew Tinker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


We have directly observed the trafficking and fusion of ion channel containing vesicles and monitored the release of individual ion channels at the plasma membrane of live mammalian cells using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. Proteins were fused in-frame with green or red fluorescent proteins and expressed at low level in HL-1 and HEK293 cells. Dual color imaging revealed that vesicle trafficking involved motorized movement along microtubules followed by stalling, fusion, and subsequent release of individual ion channels at the plasma membrane. We found that KCNQ1-KCNE1 complexes were released in batches of about 5 molecules per vesicle. To elucidate the properties of ion channel complexes at the cell membrane we tracked the movement of individual molecules and compared the diffusive behavior of two types of potassium channel complex (KCNQ1-KCNE1 and Kir6.2-SUR2A) to that of a G-protein coupled receptor, the A1 adenosine receptor. Plots of mean squared displacement against time intervals showed that mobility depended on channel type, cell type, and temperature. Analysis of the mobility of wild type KCNQ1-KCNE1 complexes showed the existence of a significant immobile subpopulation and also a significant number of molecules that demonstrated periodic stalling of diffusive movements. This behavior was enhanced in cells treated with jasplakinolide and was abrogated in a C-terminal truncated form (KCNQ1(R518X)-KCNE1) of the protein. This mutant has been identified in patients with the long QT syndrome. We propose that KCNQ1-KCNE1 complexes interact intermittently with the actin cytoskeleton via the C-terminal region and this interaction may have a functional role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3664-75
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2010


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters/genetics
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane/metabolism
  • Depsipeptides/pharmacology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins/genetics
  • Humans
  • KCNQ1 Potassium Channel/genetics
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials/physiology
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation
  • Myocytes, Cardiac/cytology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying/genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated/genetics
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Transport/drug effects
  • Receptors, Drug/genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins/chemistry
  • Sulfonylurea Receptors
  • Transfection


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