Background: Several tumor entities including brain tumors aberrantly overexpress
intermediate conductance Ca2+ activated KCa3.1 K+ channels. These channels contribute significantly
to the transformed phenotype of the tumor cells.
Method: PubMed was searched in order to summarize our current knowledge on the molecular
signaling upstream and downstream and the effector functions of KCa3.1 channel activity in tumor
cells in general and in glioblastoma cells in particular. In addition, KCa3.1 expression and function
for repair of DNA double strand breaks was determined experimentally in primary glioblastoma
cultures in dependence on the abundance of proneural and mesenchymal stem cell markers.
Results: By modulating membrane potential, cell volume, Ca2+ signals and the respiratory chain,
KCa3.1 channels in both, plasma and inner mitochondrial membrane, have been demonstrated to
regulate many cellular processes such as migration and tissue invasion, metastasis, cell cycle
progression, oxygen consumption and metabolism, DNA damage response and cell death of cancer
cells. Moreover, KCa3.1 channels have been shown to crucially contribute to resistance against
radiotherapy. Futhermore, the original in vitro data on KCa3.1 channel expression in subtypes
of glioblastoma stem(-like) cells propose KCa3.1 as marker for the mesenchymal subgroup of
cancer stem cells and suggest that KCa3.1 contributes to the therapy resistance of mesenchymal
glioblastoma stem cells.
Conclusion: The data suggest KCa3.1 channel targeting in combination with radiotherapy as
promising new tool to eradicate therapy-resistant mesenchymal glioblastoma stem cells.