Molecular research on ion channels has demonstrated that many of these integral membrane proteins associate with partner proteins, often versatile in their function, or even assemble into stable macromolecular complexes that ensure specificity and proper rate of the channel-mediated signal transduction. Calcium-activated potassium (KCa) channels that link excitability and intracellular calcium concentration are responsible for a wide variety of cellular processes ranging from regulation of smooth muscle tone to modulation of neurotransmission and control of neuronal firing pattern. Most of these functions are brought about by interaction of the channels' pore-forming subunits with distinct partner proteins. In this review we summarize recent insights into protein complexes associated with KCa channels as revealed by proteomic research and discuss the results available on structure and function of these complexes and on the underlying protein-protein interactions. Finally, the results are related to their significance for the function of KCa channels under cellular conditions.
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