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Nature. 2001 Oct 25;413(6858):809-13.

Ion conduction pore is conserved among potassium channels.

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Department of Physiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Potassium channels, a group of specialized membrane proteins, enable K+ ions to flow selectively across cell membranes. Transmembrane K+ currents underlie electrical signalling in neurons and other excitable cells. The atomic structure of a bacterial K+ channel pore has been solved by means of X-ray crystallography. To the extent that the prokaryotic pore is representative of other K+ channels, this landmark achievement has profound implications for our general understanding of K+ channels. But serious doubts have been raised concerning whether the prokaryotic K+ channel pore does actually represent those of eukaryotes. Here we have addressed this fundamental issue by substituting the prokaryotic pore into eukaryotic voltage-gated and inward-rectifier K+ channels. The resulting chimaeras retain the respective functional hallmarks of the eukaryotic channels, which indicates that the ion conduction pore is indeed conserved among K+ channels.

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