Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Oct 13;106(41):17546-51. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

An unexpected role for TASK-3 potassium channels in network oscillations with implications for sleep mechanisms and anesthetic action.


Pang DS, Robledo CJ, Carr DR, Gent TC, Vyssotski AL, Caley A, Zecharia AY, Wisden W, Brickley SG, Franks NP.

TASK channels are acid-sensitive and anesthetic-activated members of the family of two-pore-domain potassium channels. We have made the surprising discovery that the genetic ablation of TASK-3 channels eliminates a specific type of theta oscillation in the cortical electroencephalogram (EEG) resembling type II theta (4-9 Hz), which is thought to be important in processing sensory stimuli before initiating motor activity. In contrast, ablation of TASK-1 channels has no effect on theta oscillations. Despite the absence of type II theta oscillations in the TASK-3 knockout (KO) mice, the related type I theta, which has certain neuronal pathways in common and is involved in exploratory behavior, is unaffected. In addition to the absence of type II theta oscillations, the TASK-3 KO animals show marked alterations in both anesthetic sensitivity and natural sleep behavior. Their sensitivity to halothane, a potent activator of TASK channels, is greatly reduced, whereas their sensitivity to cyclopropane, which does not activate TASK-3 channels, is unchanged. The TASK-3 KO animals exhibit a slower progression from their waking to sleeping states and, during their sleeping period, their sleep episodes as well as their REM theta oscillations are more fragmented. These results imply a previously unexpected role for TASK-3 channels in the cellular mechanisms underlying these behaviors and suggest that endogenous modulators of these channels may regulate theta oscillations.

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