Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) generate electrical slow waves by coordinated openings of ANO1 channels, a Ca2+-activated Cl− (CaCC) conductance. Efflux of Cl− during slow waves must be significant, as there is high current density during slow-wave currents and slow waves are of sufficient magnitude to depolarize the syncytium of smooth muscle cells and PDGFRα+ cells to which they are electrically coupled. We investigated how the driving force for Cl− current is maintained in ICC. We found robust expression of Slc12a2 (which encodes an Na+-K+-Cl− cotransporter, NKCC1) and immunohistochemical confirmation that NKCC1 is expressed in ICC. With the use of the gramicidin permeabilized-patch technique, which is reported to not disturb [Cl−]i, the reversal potential for spontaneous transient inward currents (ESTICs) was −10.5 mV. This value corresponds to the peak of slow waves when they are recorded directly from ICC in situ. Inhibition of NKCC1 with bumetanide shifted ESTICs to more negative potentials within a few minutes and reduced pacemaker activity. Bumetanide had no direct effects on ANO1 or CaV3.2 channels expressed in HEK293 cells or L-type Ca2+ currents. Reducing extracellular Cl− to 10 mM shifted ESTICs to positive potentials as predicted by the Nernst equation. The relatively rapid shift in ESTICs when NKCC1 was blocked suggests that significant changes in the transmembrane Cl− gradient occur during the slow-wave cycle, possibly within microdomains formed between endoplasmic reticulum and the plasma membrane in ICC. Recovery of Cl− via NKCC1 might have additional consequences on shaping the waveforms of slow waves via Na+ entry into microdomains.
- electrical slow waves
- gastrointestinal motility
- Ca2+-activated Cl− current
- smooth muscle
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