We have studied the activation of a high-conductance channel in clonal kidney cells from African green monkey (Vero cells) using patch-clamp recordings and microfluorometric (fura-2) measurements of cytosolic Ca2+. The single-channel conductance in excised patches is 170 pS in symmetrical 140 mM KCl. The channel is highly selective for K+ and activated by membrane depolarization and application of Ca2+ to the cytoplasmatic side of the patch. The channel is, thus, a large-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ channel (BK channel). Cell-attached recordings revealed that the channel is inactive in unstimulated cells. Extracellular application of less than 0.1 microM ATP transiently increased the cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) to about 550 nM, and induced membrane hyperpolarization caused by Ca2+-activated K+ currents. ATP stimulation also activated BK channels in cell-attached patches at both the normal-resting potential and during membrane hyperpolarization. The increase in [Ca2+]i was owing to Ca2+ release from internal stores, suggesting that Vero cells express G-protein-coupled purinergic receptors (P2Y) mediating IP3-induced release of Ca2+. The P2Y receptors were sensitive to both uracil triphosphate (UTP) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP), and the rank of agonist potency was ATP >> UTP >/= ADP. This result indicates the presence of both P2Y1 and P2Y2 receptors or a receptor subtype with untypical agonist sensitivity. It has previously been shown that hypotonic challenge activates BK channels in both normal and clonal kidney cells. The subsequent loss of KCl may be an important factor in cellular volume regulation. Our results support the idea of an autocrine role of ATP in this process. A minute release of ATP induced by hypotonically evoked membrane stretch may activate the P2Y receptors, subsequently increasing [Ca2+]i and thus causing K+ efflux through BK channels.
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