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Potassium (K+) channels are usually predominant in the membranes of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMCs). These channels play an important role in regulating the membrane potential and vessel contractility-a role that depends on the vascular bed. Thus, the activity of K+ channels represents one of the main mechanisms regulating the vascular tone in physiological and pathophysiological conditions. Briefly, the activation of K+ channels in SMC leads to hyperpolarization and vasorelaxation, while its inhibition induces depolarization and consequent vascular contraction. Currently, there are four different types of K+ channels described in SMCs: voltage-dependent K+ (KV) channels, calcium-activated K+ (KCa) channels, inward rectifier K+ (Kir) channels, and 2-pore domain K+ (K2P) channels. Due to the fundamental role of K+ channels in excitable cells, these channels are promising therapeutic targets in clinical practice. Therefore, this review discusses the basic properties of the various types of K+ channels, including structure, cellular mechanisms that regulate their activity, and new advances in the development of activators and blockers of these channels. The vascular functions of these channels will be discussed with a focus on vascular SMCs of the human umbilical artery. Then, the clinical importance of K+ channels in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular diseases during pregnancy, such as gestational hypertension and preeclampsia, will be explored.

Citation

Margarida Lorigo, Nelson Oliveira, Elisa Cairrao. Clinical Importance of the Human Umbilical Artery Potassium Channels. Cells. 2020 Aug 25;9(9)

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PMID: 32854241

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