The voltage-gated potassium channels and their relatives

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The voltage-gated potassium channels are the prototypical members of a family of membrane signalling proteins. These protein-based machines have pores that pass millions of ions per second across the membrane with astonishing selectivity, and their gates snap open and shut in milliseconds as they sense changes in voltage or ligand concentration. The architectural modules and functional components of these sophisticated signalling molecules are becoming clear, but some important links remain to be elucidated.

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Figure 1: Architectural features of K+ channels important for ion permeation.
Figure 2: The conformational changes that gate the K+ channel pore.
Figure 3: Two sensor domains that govern gating in the K+ channel family.


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I would like to thank members of my laboratory and B. Bean for many discussions and for suggestions about the manuscript, and R. MacKinnon for advice about timing. My research was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Correspondence to Gary Yellen.

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Yellen, G. The voltage-gated potassium channels and their relatives. Nature 419, 35–42 (2002) doi:10.1038/nature00978

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