The GIRK1 subunit potentiates G protein activation of cardiac GIRK1/4 heterotetramers

Kouki K. Touhara, Weiwei Wang, Roderick Mackinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


G protein gated inward rectifier potassium (GIRK) channels are gated by direct binding of G protein beta-gamma subunits (Gβγ), signaling lipids, and intracellular Na+. In cardiac pacemaker cells, hetero-tetramer GIRK1/4 channels and homo-tetramer GIRK4 channels play a central role in parasympathetic slowing of heart rate. It is known that the Na+ binding site of the GIRK1 subunit is defective, but the functional difference between GIRK1/4 hetero-tetramers and GIRK4 homo-tetramers remains unclear. Here, using purified proteins and the lipid bilayer system, we characterize Gβγ and Na+ regulation of GIRK1/4 hetero-tetramers and GIRK4 homo-tetramers. We find in GIRK4 homo-tetramers that Na+ binding increases Gbg affinity and thereby increases the GIRK4 responsiveness to G protein stimulation. GIRK1/4 hetero-tetramers are not activated by Na+, but rather are in a permanent state of high responsiveness to Gbg, suggesting that the GIRK1 subunit functions like a GIRK4 subunit with Na+ permanently bound.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere15750
Issue numberApril 2016
StatePublished - Apr 13 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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