Crucial importance of the endothelial K+ channel SK3 and connexin40 in arteriolar dilations during skeletal muscle contraction

Malte Milkau, Ralf Köhler, Cor De Wit*

*Corresponding author for this work
53 Citations (Scopus)


Skeletal muscle activity requires substantial increases in blood flow, and the underlying vasodilation involves endothelial activity, but the contribution of the endothelium-dependent hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF) is only poorly defined. In EDHF signaling, endothelial hyperpolarization mediated by the Ca2+-activated K+ channels SK3 and IK1 is a key step and also initiates gap junction-dependent conducted dilations. We assessed the role of SK3, IK1, and connexin40 (Cx40) in muscular contraction-induced dilations in the microcirculation in vivo. Hitherto, arterioles were observed in the electrically stimulated cremaster skeletal muscle of anesthetized mice lacking SK3, IK1, or Cx40 using intravital microscopy. Genetic deficiency of SK3, but not of IK1, strongly attenuated dilations to muscular contraction. Similarly, pharmacologic blockade of SK3 by the specific blocker UCL1684 impaired such dilations in wild-type and IK1-deficient mice. In contrast, IK1 was required for acetylcholine-induced dilations. Genetic deficiency of Cx40 also attenuated dilations induced by muscular contraction but not by acetylcholine. These data support the concept that endothelial hyperpolarization through activation of SK3 contributes to exercise hyperemia and the hyperpolarization ascends the vascular tree through gap junctions formed by Cx40 to orchestrate dilation. The differential impact of SK3- and IK1-deficiency on dilations to distinct stimuli suggests stimulus-dependent activation of these endothelial channels.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)3572-3579
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 09.2010

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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