A new class of noninactivating K+ channels from aplysia capable of contributing to the resting potential and firing patterns of neurons

From the nervous system of Aplysia, we have cloned a new class of noninactivating K+ channels (aKv5.1) that are activated at low voltage and are capable of contributing to the resting potential and firing patterns of neurons. Expression of aKv5.1 in Aplysia neuron R15 revealed that aKv5.1 exerts an unusual control over cell excitability; it increased the resting potential by more than 20 mV and abolished the spontaneous bursting activity of the cell. In its ability to suppress the endogenous rhythm of R15, aKv5.1 differs in its actions from transient, inactivating K+ channels such as aKv1.1a, an Aplysia homolog of Shaker. aKv1.1a shortens the duration of the spike and increases the afterpotential, but does not suppress bursting. Thus, by expressing different classes of K+ channels, it is possible to redesign, in specific ways, the signaling capabilities of specific, identified neurons.