A Quantitative Model of the GIRK1/2 Channel Reveals That Its Basal and Evoked Activities Are Controlled by Unequal Stoichiometry of Gα and Gβγ

Daniel Yakubovich, Shai Berlin, Uri Kahanovitch, Moran Rubinstein, Isabella Farhy-Tselnicker, Boaz Styr, Tal Keren-Raifman, Carmen W. Dessauer, Nathan Dascal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


G protein-gated K+ channels (GIRK; Kir3), activated by Gβγ subunits derived from Gi/o proteins, regulate heartbeat and neuronal excitability and plasticity. Both neurotransmitter-evoked (Ievoked) and neurotransmitter-independent basal (Ibasal) GIRK activities are physiologically important, but mechanisms of Ibasal and its relation to Ievoked are unclear. We have previously shown for heterologously expressed neuronal GIRK1/2, and now show for native GIRK in hippocampal neurons, that Ibasal and Ievoked are interrelated: the extent of activation by neurotransmitter (activation index, Ra) is inversely related to Ibasal. To unveil the underlying mechanisms, we have developed a quantitative model of GIRK1/2 function. We characterized single-channel and macroscopic GIRK1/2 currents, and surface densities of GIRK1/2 and Gβγ expressed in Xenopus oocytes. Based on experimental results, we constructed a mathematical model of GIRK1/2 activity under steady-state conditions before and after activation by neurotransmitter. Our model accurately recapitulates Ibasal and Ievoked in Xenopus oocytes, HEK293 cells and hippocampal neurons; correctly predicts the dose-dependent activation of GIRK1/2 by coexpressed Gβγ and fully accounts for the inverse Ibasal-Ra correlation. Modeling indicates that, under all conditions and at different channel expression levels, between 3 and 4 Gβγ dimers are available for each GIRK1/2 channel. In contrast, available Gαi/o decreases from ~2 to less than one Gα per channel as GIRK1/2's density increases. The persistent Gβγ/channel (but not Gα/channel) ratio support a strong association of GIRK1/2 with Gβγ, consistent with recruitment to the cell surface of Gβγ, but not Gα, by GIRK1/2. Our analysis suggests a maximal stoichiometry of 4 Gβγ but only 2 Gαi/o per one GIRK1/2 channel. The unique, unequal association of GIRK1/2 with G protein subunits, and the cooperative nature of GIRK gating by Gβγ, underlie the complex pattern of basal and agonist-evoked activities and allow GIRK1/2 to act as a sensitive bidirectional detector of both Gβγ and Gα.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004598
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2015


FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation49/08, 436/14
United States-Israel Binational Science Foundation2009255, 2013230
National Institute of General Medical SciencesR01GM060419


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