. ATP-sensitive potassium (K
) channels, which link membrane excitability to cell metabolism, are abundant in skeletal muscle and play an important role in regulating muscle function and energy consumption. However, it is not clear how K
activation affects muscles under physiological conditions and how this translates to energy use.
Researchers from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine developed a technique to evaluate muscle function in the tibialis anterior leg muscle of living mice. They found that, during low-level exercise, which triggered the opening of KATP
channels, muscles with disrupted KATP
function had higher peak force, calcium release, and heat production— which is associated with increased energy consumption— than muscles with normal KATP
The results show how KATP
channels control energy use even during mundane, low-intensity activity. Modulating KATP
channel activity could therefore provide a new strategy to combat metabolic disorders like muscle wasting and cachexia, when the goal is to conserve energy, or obesity, when increasing energy consumption is desired.