Institute for Medicine and Engineering Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

December 2002


Reprinted from Biophysical Journal, Volume 83, Number 6, December 2002, pages 3211-3222.
Publisher URL:


Membrane potential of aortic endothelial cells under resting conditions is dominated by inward-rectifier K+ channels belonging to the Kir 2 family. Regulation of endothelial Kir by membrane cholesterol was studied in bovine aortic endothelial cells by altering the sterol composition of the cell membrane. Our results show that enriching the cells with cholesterol decreases the Kir current density, whereas depleting the cells of cholesterol increases the density of the current. The dependence of the Kir current density on the level of cellular cholesterol fits a sigmoid curve with the highest sensitivity of the Kir current at normal physiological levels of cholesterol. To investigate the mechanism of Kir regulation by cholesterol, endogenous cholesterol was substituted by its optical isomer, epicholesterol. Substitution of ~50% of cholesterol by epicholesterol results in an early and significant increase in the Kir current density. Furthermore, substitution of cholesterol by epicholesterol has a stronger facilitative effect on the current than cholesterol depletion. Neither single channel properties nor membrane capacitance were significantly affected by the changes in the membrane sterol composition. These results suggest that 1) cholesterol modulates cellular K+ conductance by changing the number of the active channels and 2) that specific cholesterol-protein interactions are critical for the regulation of endothelial Kir.



Date Posted: 24 October 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.