In Shaker group potassium channels the presence of a tyrosine residue, just downstream of the pore signature sequence GYG, determines sensitivity to tetraethylammonium (TEA). The KCNQ family of channels has a variety of amino acid residues in the equivalent position. We studied the effect of TEA on currents generated by KCNQ homomers and heteromers expressed in CHO cells. We used wild-type KCNQ1-4 channels and heteromeric KCNQ2/3 channels incorporating either wild-type KCNQ3 subunits or a mutated KCNQ3 in which tyrosine replaced threonine at position 323 (mutant T323Y). IC50 values were (mM): KCNQ1, 5.0; KCNQ2, 0.3; KCNQ3, > 30; KCNQ4, 3.0; KCNQ2 + KCNQ3, 3.8; and KCNQ2 + KCNQ3(T323Y), 0.5. While the high TEA sensitivity of KCNQ2 may be conferred by a tyrosine residue lacking in the other channels, the intermediate TEA sensitivity of KCNQ1 and KCNQ4 implies that other residues are also important in determining TEA block of the KCNQ channels.
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