The rate-limiting step for the maternofetal exchange of low molecular-weight solutes in humans is constituted by transport across a single epithelial layer (syncytiotrophoblast) of the placenta. Other than the well-established presence of a large-conductance, multisubstate Cl− channel, the ionic channels occurring in this syncytial tissue are, for the most part, unknown. We have found that fusion of apical plasma membrane-enriched vesicle fractions with planar lipid bilayers leads, mainly (96% of 353 reconstitutions), to the reconstitution of nonselective cation channels. Here we describe the properties of this novel placental conductance at the single-channel level. The channel has a large (>200 pS) and variable conductance, is cation selective (P Cl /P K ≅ 0.024), is reversibly inhibited (presumably blocked) by submillimolar La3+, has very unstable kinetics, and displays a large number (>10) of current sublevels with a ``promiscuous'' connectivity pattern. The occurrence of both ``staircaselike'' and ``all-or-nothing'' transitions between the minimum and maximum current levels was intriguing, particularly considering the large number of conductance levels spanned at a time during the concerted current steps. Single-channel data simulated according to a multistate linear reaction scheme, with rate constants that can vary spontaneously in time, reproduce many aspects of the recorded subconductance behavior. The channel's sensitivity to lanthanides is reminiscent of stretch-sensitive channels which, in turn, suggests a physiological role for this ion channel as a mechanotransducer during syncytiotrophoblast-volume regulation.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 1, 2000
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