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The connection between the action of microbial RNases and Ca2+-activated K+ (KCa) channels was investigated in human embryo kidney cells HEKhSK4 artificially expressing the channels. These channels protected HEKhSK4 cells from apoptosis induced by binase and 5K charge reversal mutant of RNase Sa. After the first 24h, potassium current increased without increase in intracellular Ca2+, and mitochondrial potential remained high. After 72 h, the concentration of calcium increased and mitochondria lost their potential. Whole-cell recordings of membrane currents through KCa channels in RNase-treated cells demonstrated a biphasic pattern: initially their activity in cell population increased, peaked at 24h, and then gradually decreased. In each individual cell we observed either an increase of the amplitude of KCa current, or a complete shutdown of the channels. The activity of KCa channels could be restored by removing RNases from the media. Based on this pattern and especially its timing, we hypothesize that toxic RNases downregulate KCa channels at the level of transcription or translation. Our results indicate that new anticancer agents could be created on the basis of microbial RNases targeting KCa channels.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





717 - 725


Apoptosis, Calcium, Cell Line, Humans, Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated, Ribonucleases