Isolation of proflavine as a blocker of G protein-gated inward rectifier potassium channels by a cell growth-based screening system

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The overexpression of Kir3.2, a subunit of the G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K+ channel, is implicated in some of the neurological phenotypes of Down syndrome (DS). Chemical compounds that block Kir3.2 are expected to improve the symptoms of DS. The purpose of this study is to develop a cell-based screening system to identify Kir3.2 blockers and then investigate the mode of action of the blocker. Chemical screening was carried out using a K+ transporter-deficient yeast strain that expressed a constitutively active Kir3.2 mutant. The mode of action of an effective blocker was electrophysiologically analyzed using Kir channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Proflavine was identified to inhibit the growth of Kir3.2-transformant cells and Kir3.2 activity in a concentration-dependent manner. The current inhibition was strong when membrane potentials (Vm) was above equilibrium potential of K+ (EK). When Vm was below EK, the blockage apparently depended on the difference between Vm and [K+]. Furthermore, the inhibition became stronger by lowering extracellular [K+]. These results indicated that the yeast strain serves as a screening system to isolate Kir3.2 blockers and proflavine is a prototype of a pore blocker of Kir3.2.

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