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Mechanisms that control surface expression and/or activity of large conductance calcium-activated potassium (BK) channels are important determinants of their (patho)physiological function. Indeed, BK channel dysfunction is associated with major human disorders ranging from epilepsy to hypertension and obesity. S-acylation (S-palmitoylation) represents a major reversible, post-translational modification controlling the properties and function of many proteins including ion channels. Recent evidence reveals that both pore-forming and regulatory subunits of BK channels are S-acylated and control channel trafficking and regulation by AGC-family protein kinases. The pore-forming α-subunit is S-acylated at two distinct sites within the N- and C-terminus, each site being regulated by different palmitoyl acyl transferases (zDHHCs) and acyl thioesterases (APTs). S-acylation of the N-terminus controls channel trafficking and surface expression whereas S-acylation of the C-terminal domain determines regulation of channel activity by AGC-family protein kinases. S-acylation of the regulatory β4-subunit controls ER exit and surface expression of BK channels but does not affect ion channel kinetics at the plasma membrane. Furthermore, a significant number of previously identified BK-channel interacting proteins have been shown, or are predicted to be, S-acylated. Thus, the BK channel multi-molecular signaling complex may be dynamically regulated by this fundamental post-translational modification and thus S-acylation likely represents an important determinant of BK channel physiology in health and disease.
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