Large-conductance Ca2+- and voltage-activated potassium (MaxiK or BK) channels are composed of a pore-forming α subunit (Slo) and 4 types of auxiliary β subunits or just a pore-forming α subunit. Although multiple N-linked glycosylation sites in the extracellular loop of β subunits have been identified, very little is known about how glycosylation influences the structure and function of BK channels. Using a combination of site-directed mutagenesis, western blot and patch-clamp recordings, we demonstrated that 3 sites in the extracellular loop of β2 subunit are N-glycosylated (N-X-T/S at N88, N96 and N119). Glycosylation of these sites strongly and differentially regulate gating kinetics, outward rectification, toxin sensitivity and physical association between the α and β2 subunits. We constructed a model and used molecular dynamics (MD) to simulate how the glycosylation facilitates the association of α/β2 subunits and modulates the dimension of the extracellular cavum above the pore of the channel, ultimately to modify biophysical and pharmacological properties of BK channels. Our results suggest that N-glycosylation of β2 subunits plays crucial roles in imparting functional heterogeneity of BK channels, and is potentially involved in the pathological phenotypes of carbohydrate metabolic diseases.
- BK channels