The regulation of calcium-activated K (KCa) channels by a G protein-mediated mechanism was studied. KCa channels were reconstituted in planar lipid bilayers by fusion of membrane vesicles from rat or pig myometrium. The regulatory process was studied by exploring the actions of GTP and GTP gamma S on single channel activity. KCa channels had a conductance of 260 +/- 6 pS (n = 25, +/- SE, 250/50 mM KCl gradient) and were voltage dependent. The open probability (Po) vs. voltage relationships were well fit by a Boltzmann distribution. The slope factor (11 mV) was insensitive to internal Ca2+. The half activation potential (V1/2) was shifted -70 mV by raising internal Ca2+ from pCa 6.2 to pCa 4. Addition of GTP or GTP gamma S activated channel activity only in the presence of Mg2+, a characteristic typical of G protein-mediated mechanisms. The Po increased from 0.18 +/- 0.08 to 0.49 +/- 0.07 (n = 7, 0 mV, pCa 6 to 6.8). The channel was also activated (Po increased from 0.03 to 0.37) in the presence of AMP-PNP, a nonphosphorylating ATP analogue, suggesting a direct G protein gating of KCa channels. Upon nucleotide activation, mean open time increased by a factor of 2.7 +/- 0.7 and mean closed time decreased by 0.2 +/- 0.07 of their initial values (n = 6). Norepinephrine (NE) or isoproterenol potentiated the GTP-mediated activation of KCa channels (Po increased from 0.17 +/- 0.06 to 0.35 +/- 0.07, n = 10). These results suggest that myometrium possesses beta-adrenergic receptors coupled to a GTP-dependent protein that can directly gate KCa channels. Furthermore, KCa channels, beta-adrenergic receptors, and G proteins can be reconstituted in lipid bilayers as a stable, functionally coupled, molecular complex.

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