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One group of the K+ ion channels, the small-conductance Ca2+-activated potassium channels (KCa2.x, also known as SK channels family), is widely expressed in neurons as well as the heart, endothelial cells, etc. They are named small-conductance Ca2+-activated potassium channels (SK channels) due to their comparatively low single-channel conductance of about ~10 pS. These channels are insensitive to changes in membrane potential and are activated solely by rises in the intracellular Ca2+. According to the phylogenic research done on the KCa2.x channels family, there are three channels' subtypes: KCa2.1, KCa2.2, and KCa2.3, which are encoded by KCNN1, KCNN2, and KCNN3 genes, respectively. The KCa2.x channels regulate neuronal excitability and responsiveness to synaptic input patterns. KCa2.x channels inhibit excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) in neuronal dendrites and contribute to the medium afterhyperpolarization (mAHP) that follows the action potential bursts. Multiple brain regions, including the hippocampus, express the KCa2.2 channel encoded by the KCNN2 gene on chromosome 5. Of particular interest, rat cerebellar Purkinje cells express KCa2.2 channels, which are crucial for various cellular processes during development and maturation. Patients with a loss-of-function of KCNN2 mutations typically exhibit extrapyramidal symptoms, cerebellar ataxia, motor and language developmental delays, and intellectual disabilities. Studies have revealed that autosomal dominant neurodevelopmental movement disorders resembling rodent symptoms are caused by heterozygous loss-of-function mutations, which are most likely to induce KCNN2 haploinsufficiency. The KCa2.2 channel is a promising drug target for spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). SCAs exhibit the dysregulation of firing in cerebellar Purkinje cells which is one of the first signs of pathology. Thus, selective KCa2.2 modulators are promising potential therapeutics for SCAs.


This article was originally published in Journal of Neuroscience Research in 2023.


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