Nervous or hormonal stimulation of many exocrine glands evokes release of cellular K+ (ref. 1), as originally demonstrated in mammalian salivary glands2,3, and is associated with a marked increase in membrane conductance1,4,5. We now demonstrate directly, by using the patch-clamp technique6, the existence of a K+ channel with a large conductance localized in the basolateral plasma membranes of mouse and rat salivary gland acinar cells. The K+ channel has a conductance of ∼250 pS in the presence of high K+ solutions on both sides of the membrane. Although mammalian exocrine glands are believed not to possess voltage-activated channels1,7, the probability of opening the salivary gland K+ channel was increased by membrane depolarization. The frequency of channel opening, particularly at higher membrane potentials, was increased markedly by elevating the internal ionized Ca2+ concentration, as previously shown for high-conductance K+ channels from cells of neural origin8-10. The Ca2+ and voltage-activated K+ channel explains the marked cellular K + release that is characteristically observed when salivary glands are stimulated to secrete.
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