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The molecular identity of ion channels which confer PCO(2)/pH sensitivity in the brain is unclear. Heteromeric Kir4.1/Kir5.1 channels are highly sensitive to inhibition by intracellular pH and are widely expressed in several brainstem nuclei involved in cardiorespiratory control, including the locus coeruleus. This has therefore led to a proposed role for these channels in neuronal CO(2) chemosensitivity. To examine this, we generated mutant mice lacking the Kir5.1 (Kcnj16) gene. We show that although locus coeruleus neurons from Kcnj16((+/+)) mice rapidly respond to cytoplasmic alkalinization and acidification, those from Kcnj16((-/-)) mice display a dramatically reduced and delayed response. These results identify Kir5.1 as an important determinant of PCO(2)/pH sensitivity in locus coeruleus neurons and suggest that Kir5.1 may be involved in the response to hypercapnic acidosis.

Original publication




Journal article


J Biol Chem

Publication Date





192 - 198


Acidosis, Animals, Carbon Dioxide, Electric Conductivity, Female, Gene Deletion, Hydrogen-Ion Concentration, Locus Coeruleus, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Neurons, Potassium Channels, Inwardly Rectifying