Expression of Kir4.1 and Kir5.1 inwardly rectifying potassium channels in oligodendrocytes, the myelinating cells of the CNS
Previous electrophysiological evidence has indicated that astrocytes and oligodendrocytes express inwardly rectifying K(+) channels both in vitro and in vivo. Here, for the first time, we have undertaken light microscopic immunohistochemical studies demonstrating the location of one such channel, Kir4.1, in both cell types in regions of the rat CNS. Some astrocytes such as those in the deep cerebellar nuclei, Bergmann glia, retinal Müller cells, and a subset in hippocampus express Kir4.1 immunoreactivity, but not others including those in white matter. Oligodendrocytes also express this protein, strongly in perikarya and to a lesser extent in their processes. Expression of Kir4.1 in astrocytes and oligodendrocytes would enable these cells to clear extracellular K(+) through this channel, whereas nonexpressors might use other mechanisms.