Obstet Gynecol Sci.  2020 Sep;63(5):565-576. 10.5468/ogs.20064.

Role of potassium channels in female reproductive system

  • 1Department of Urology, Soonchunhyang University, Bucheon Hospital, Bucheon, Korea
  • 2Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Science, Soonchunhyang University, Bucheon Hospital, Bucheon, Korea
  • 3Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Yale University, School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA


Potassium channels are widely expressed in most types of cells in living organisms and regulate the functions of a variety of organs, including kidneys, neurons, cardiovascular organs, and pancreas among others. However, the functional roles of potassium channels in the reproductive system is less understood. This mini-review provides information about the localization and functions of potassium channels in the female reproductive system. Five types of potassium channels, which include inward-rectifying (Kir), voltage-gated (Kv), calcium-activated (KCa), 2-pore domain (K2P), and rapidly-gating sodium-activated (Slo) potassium channels are expressed in the hypothalamus, ovaries, and uterus. Their functions include the regulation of hormone release and feedback by Kir6.1 and Kir6.2, which are expressed in the luteal granulosa cells and gonadotropin-releasing hormone neurons respectively, and regulate the functioning of the hypothalamus–pituitary–ovarian axis and the production of progesterone. Both channels are regulated by subtypes of the sulfonylurea receptor (SUR), Kir6.1/SUR2B and Kir6.2/SUR1. Kv and Slo2.1 affect the transition from uterine quiescence in late pregnancy to the state of strong myometrial contractions in labor. Intermediate- and small-conductance KCa modulate the vasodilatation of the placental chorionic plate resistance arteries via the secretion of nitric oxide and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factors. Treatment with specific channel activators and inhibitors provides information relevant for clinical use that could help alter the functions of the female reproductive system.


Potassium channels; Gonadal steroid hormones; Ovary; Uterus; Placenta
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