Expression of the ether-a-go-go (ERG) potassium channel in smooth muscle of the equine gastrointestinal tract and influence on activity of jejunal smooth muscle.
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OBJECTIVE: To determine whether ether-a-go-go (ERG) potassium channels are expressed in equine gastrointestinal smooth muscle, whether ERG channel antagonists affect jejunal muscle contraction in vitro, and whether plasma cisapride concentrations in horses administered treatment for postoperative ileus (POI) are consistent with ERG channels as drug targets. SAMPLE POPULATION: Samples of intestinal smooth muscle obtained from 8 horses free of gastrointestinal tract disease and plasma samples obtained from 3 horses administered cisapride for treatment of POI. PROCEDURE: Membranes were prepared from the seromuscular layer of the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, cecum, large colon, and small colon. Immunoblotting was used to identify the ERG channel protein. Isolated jejunal muscle strips were used for isometric stress response to ERG channel blockers that included E-4031, MK-499, clofilium, and cisapride. Plasma concentrations of cisapride were determined in 3 horses administered cisapride for treatment of POI after small intestinal surgery. RESULTS: Immunoblotting identified ERG protein in all analyzed segments of the intestinal tract in all horses. The selective ERG antagonist E-4031 caused a concentration-dependent increase in jejunal contraction. Clofilium, MK-499, and cisapride also increased jejunal contraction at concentrations consistent with ERG channel block; effects of E-4031 and cisapride were not additive. Peak plasma cisapride concentrations in treated horses were consistent with ERG block as a mechanism of drug action. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: The ERG potassium channels modulate motility of intestinal muscles in horses and may be a target for drugs. This finding may influence development of new prokinetic agents and impact treatment of horses with POI.