In anterior pituitary endocrine cells, large (BK), small (SK) and intermediate (IK) conductance calcium activated potassium channels are key determinants in shaping cellular excitability in a cell type- and context-specific manner. Indeed, these channels are targeted by multiple signaling pathways that stimulate or inhibit cellular excitability. BK channels can, paradoxically, both promote electrical bursting as well as terminate bursting and spiking dependent upon intrinsic BK channel properties and proximity to voltage gated calcium channels in somatotrophs, lactotrophs and corticotrophs. In contrast, SK channels are predominantly activated by calcium released from intracellular IP3-sensitive calcium stores and mediate membrane hyperpolarization in cells including gonadotrophs and corticotrophs. IK channels are predominantly expressed in corticotrophs where they limit membrane excitability. A major challenge for the future is to determine the cell-type specific molecular composition of calcium-activated potassium channels and how they control anterior pituitary hormone secretion as well as other calcium-dependent processes.
- Journal Article