Recently, overexpression of the genes TMEM16A and TMEM16B has been shown to produce currents qualitatively similar to native Ca2+-activated Cl currents (IClCa) in vascular smooth muscle. However, there is no information about this new gene family in vascular smooth muscle, where Cl channels are a major depolarizing mechanism. Qualitatively similar Cl currents were evoked by a pipette solution containing 500 nM Ca2+ in smooth muscle cells isolated from BALB/c mouse portal vein, thoracic aorta, and carotid artery. Quantitative PCR using SYBR Green chemistry and primers specific for transmembrane protein (TMEM) 16A or the closely related TMEM16B showed TMEM16A expression as follows: portal vein > thoracic aorta > carotid artery > brain. In addition, several alternatively spliced variant transcripts of TMEM16A were detected. In contrast, TMEM16B expression was very low in smooth muscle. Western blot analysis with different antibodies directed against TMEM16A revealed a number of products with a consistent band at ∼120 kDa, except portal vein, where an 80-kDa band predominated. TMEM16A protein was identified in the smooth muscle layers of 4-μm-thick slices of portal vein, thoracic aorta, and carotid artery. In isolated myocytes, fluorescence specific to a TMEM16A antibody was detected diffusely throughout the cytoplasm, as well as near the membrane. The same antibody used in Western blot analysis of lysates from vascular tissues also recognized an ∼147-kDa mouse TMEM16A-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion protein expressed in HEK 293 cells, which correlated to a similar band detected by a GFP antibody. Patch-clamp experiments revealed that IClCa generated by transfection of TMEM16A-GFP in HEK 293 cells displayed remarkable similarities to IClCa recorded in vascular myocytes, including slow kinetics, steep outward rectification, and a response similar to the pharmacological agent niflumic acid. This study shows that TMEM16A expression is robust in murine vascular smooth muscle cells, consolidating the view that this gene is a viable candidate for the native Ca2+-activated Cl channel in this cell type.

  • calcium-activated chloride channels
  • anoctamin 1
  • gene expression
  • smooth muscle contraction
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