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Summary

Parkinson’s disease is the most frequent movement disorder caused by loss of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain. Intentions to avoid side effects of conventional therapy should aim to identify additional targets for potential pharmacological intervention. In principle, every step of a signal transduction cascade, such as presynaptic transmitter release, type and occupation of postsynaptic receptors, G protein-mediated effector mechanisms, and the alterations of pre- or postsynaptic potentials as determined by the local ion channel composition, have to be considered. Due to their diversity and their widespread but distinct localizations, potassium channels represent interesting candidates for new therapeutic strategies.

As a first step, the present report aimed to study the cellular and subcellular distribution of the individual members of the Kir2 family in the striatum, a group of proteins forming inwardly rectifying potassium channels. For this purpose polyclonal, monospecific, affinity purified antibodies against the less conserved carboxyterminal sequences from the Kir2.1, Kir2.2, Kir2.3, and Kir2.4 proteins were prepared. All subunits of the Kir2 family were detected on somata and dendrites of most striatal neurons. However, the distribution of two of them was not homogeneous. Striatal patch areas were largely devoid of the Kir2.3 protein, and the Kir2.4 subunit was most prominently expressed on the tonically active, giant cholinergic interneurons of the striatum. These two structures are among the key players in regulating dopaminergic and cholinergic neurotransmission within the striatum, and therefore are of major importance for the output of the basal ganglia. The heterogeneous localization of the Kir2.3 and the Kir2.4 subunits with respect to these strategic structures pinpoints these channel proteins as promising targets for future pharmacological efforts.


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